Just three weeks into the new season and it’s a case of as you were in England and Scotland as familiar names lie in the top spots in each league. In England champions Chelsea are the only team with a 100% record following their 2-0 victory over Stoke City at the weekend but familiar foes Manchester United and Arsenal FC aren’t far behind. In Scotland the two Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers, are the only teams with a perfect three wins from three games following wins over Motherwell and St. Johnstone respectively. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest action as both leagues take a break for international week.
There doesn’t appear to be any stopping Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea team at the moment. Fourteen goals scored in their first three Barclays Premiership games shows that the firepower at the Stamford Bridge club’s disposal is as reliable as ever with last season’s Golden Boot winner Didier Drogba carrying on where he left off last season having scored four goals so far including a first day hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion. He was on the score sheet again on Saturday as Chelsea beat Stoke City 2-0 with Florent Malouda also joining the Ivorian on four goals for the season with his 31st minute strike to give the Blues the lead. Arsenal FC and Manchester United are two points behind the league leaders with the Gunners edging second place at the moment through a better goal difference. Arsenal’s coach Arsène Wenger got the better of his old adversary Sam Allardyce in Saturday’s early kick-off against Blackburn Rovers with Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin scoring the goals in a 2-1 win. Later that day Manchester United easily disposed of a West Ham United team who remain rooted to the bottom of the table following a 3-0 victory for the Red Devils in a game which saw Wayne Rooney’s first league goal since March.
Aston Villa went up to fourth place on Sunday with a narrow 1-0 win over Everton thanks to a Luke Young goal in the 9th minute which arguably gives caretaker boss Kevin McDonald a winning conclusion to his short spell as coach as an announcement on a new full-time coach seems to be imminent. Everton, on the other hand, have started the season poorly with one point from three games but were unfortunate not to take anything from Sunday’s game as they had more shots and possession than their hosts but for boss David Moyes the pressure could soon be on if results don’t improve in the very near future. Manchester City were confident of following up Monday’s 3-0 drubbing of Liverpool FC with a win away at Sunderland AFC but the game would go wrong for City on two fronts. Carlos Tevez missed an open goal in what was an embarrassing moment for the Argentine and he would later rue that miss as City eventually lost to a Marcus Bent penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time to give Steve Bruce’s team all of the points. Liverpool FC won their first league game on Sunday but laboured to a 1-0 win thanks to a sole Fernando Torres strike midway through the second half against West Bromwich Albion.
In other results this weekend Tottenham Hotspur, fresh from UEFA Champions League qualification, surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Wigan Athletic who had lost both their opening matches by 4-0 and 6-0 before going to White Hart Lane. Hugo Rodallega’s 79th minute goal took his side out of the bottom three and relieved some of the pressure on his boss Roberto Martínez. Blackpool FC continued their maiden Premiership adventure with their first home match of the season against Fulham FC and a famous win was on the cards before Dickson Etuhu’s late equalizer gave the West London side a share of the points in a lively 2-2 draw over Ian Holloway’s side who have a respectable four points from three matches. Two further matches ended in draws as Newcastle United scraped a point away at Wolverhampton Wanderers thanks to Andy Carroll’s fourth goal of the season in a 1-1 draw while on Sunday Bolton Wanders came from two goals down at home to Birmingham City to gain a welcome point in a 2-2 draw at the Reebok Stadium.
The Scottish Premier League has a familiar look to it after three matches with Glasgow Celtic leading their eternal rivals Rangers by goal difference after this weekend’s matches. After Rangers had come from behind to beat bottom club St Johnstone at Ibrox Park on Saturday it was important for Celtic boss Neil Lennon to keep up his 100% winning record in the SPL since taking over from Tony Mowbray at the end of last season. The Bhoys travelled to Fir Park to play Craig Brown’s Motherwell FC who, like Celtic, were knocked out of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday in the play-off round. There were no goals in the first forty-five minutes of the match and the Celtic fans began to get impatient as the second half dragged on but then came the decisive moment in the 73rd minute after Celtic’s Shaun Maloney was brought down in the penalty area with Motherwell’s Steve Saunders shown a red card for his trouble. Daryl Murohy stepped up to score his first goal for Celtic to gift the Hoops a 1-0 win which allowed his team to leapfrog over Rangers at the top of the SPL. Rangers were on top after goals from Saša Papac and Kenny Millar gave the Gers all three points after coming from behind after St Johnstone’s Danny Grainger had scored an amazing goal to give the Perth-based side the lead. As usual the Old Firm take control of the league early on and nobody expects them to relinquish the leadership for the remainder of the season.
In the other SPL matches at the weekend the only other 100% record going into Matchday 3 was lost as Aberdeen FC, who had beaten Hamilton Academicals and St Johnstone in their opening two games, were surprisingly beaten at home by a Kilmarnock side who had yet to score a point before going to Pittodrie Stadium on Saturday. Jamie Hamill rounded Aberdeen keeper Mark Howard to slot the ball home two minutes into stoppage time to give Killie a much-needed first win of the season. Dundee United, who had high expectations following their Scottish Cup win last season, are second bottom in the table and remain without a win after Morgaro Gomis sneaked an equalizer five minutes from time in the Arabs’ 1-1 draw away at Hearts of Midlothian. Craig Dargo scored the only goal of the game as St Mirren won their first game of the season against a Hibernian side who have lost their last two games and are in a tight bunch of five clubs who have three points in the table. Another team to gain their first win of the season this weekend was Hamilton Academicals who beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0 thanks to an opening minute goal by Dougie Imrie on Saturday.
The new South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) championship kicked off this weekend with champions SuperSport United hoping that they can make it four-in-a-row this season. They were to suffer a shock defeat on the opening day, however, with Bidvest Wits University (BWU) scoring a famous 3-0 victory at home to the champions. Having already seen Brent Carelse sent off in the first half SuperSport United were to concede three goals in the last 25 minutes of the game.
BWU took the lead after 65 minutes after a well worked free-kick was fired home by Brad Phillips but it wasn’t until the dying moments of the game that the game was sealed for Bidvest. Thando Mngomeni scored the penalty spot with three minutes to go after Sifiso Vilakazi was brought down in the box by Ricardo Katza. Ryan Chapman made absolutely sure of the three points with his strike three minutes into stoppage time to give Bidvest Wits a dream start to the 2010-11 campaign and will hope to finish better than last season’s tenth place in the final standings.
The two big names of South African football, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, both got their campaigns off to a winning start. The Chiefs had an easy 2-0 home win over the Golden Arrows with Valery Nahayo and FIFA World Cup hero Siphiwe Tshabalala getting on the score sheet in the second half. The Pirates, meanwhile, had to come from behind to grind out three points against Vasco Da Gama with Lucky Lekgwathi and Isaac Chansa sparing the Pirates’ blushes after Sibusiso Zuma had given Vasco the lead. Mamelodi Sundowns, who lost the title by a single point last season, were grateful to Sibusiso Zuma who scored a brace in the final fifteen minutes of the match to secure a 2-0 win at home to Moroka Swallows.
Ajax Cape Town got their new campaign under way with a 2-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic. Brent Evans’ 91st minute penalty secured the victory after Ajax had led through Thulani Serero’s 34th minute strike. There were also winning starts for Platinum Stars and AmaZulu both of whom secured 3-2 wins against Mpumalanga Black Aces and Maritzburg United respectively. In the weekend’s final game Free State Stars and Santos were unable to break the deadlock and both had to be satisfied with a point each following a goalless stalemate.
The African Champions League remains competitive after Matchday 4 was completed this weekend with every team hoping that they can still advance to the semi-finals. Meanwhile the CAF Confederation Cup is now in full swing after all eight clubs played their Matchday 2 games in the last few days. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest action in African continental club competition.
Tunisian champions Espérance regained the leadership of Group A having defeated Champions League holders TP Mazembe by three goals to nil. Michael Enaramo did most of the damage as his goals in the 20th and 47th minutes of the game were scored in key moments of the match whilst Walid Hacheri secured the victory when he scored the third goal with three minutes of normal time remaining. Espérance now have nine points after four matches, two ahead of TP Mazembe who are in second place. In the other group game ES Sétif defeated Dynamos FC of Zimbabwe to leave themselves with an outside chance of semi-final progression. A double-strike from Bouazza Feham along with a goal from Youcef Ghazali gave the Algerians an easy 3-0 victory over their opponents and, as a result, Sétif leapfrog over Dynamos into third place. Both Espérance and TP Mazembe have a good chance to secure their semi-final berths on Matchday 5 with the teams having home matches against ES Sétif and Dynamos respectively.
WATCH ESPERANCE v TP MAZEMBE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
JS Kabylie remain on top of Group B knowing that one win in their next two games will guarantee them top spot after their 1-1 draw on Matchday 4 away at Al Ahly wasn’t quite enough to secure them a semi-final spot just yet. Mohamed Nagy gave the record champions Al Ahly the lead with after 22 minutes but the Algerians equalized just seven minutes later through an amazing strike from Saad Tedjar and with no further scoring the gap between the two north African giants in the group table remains at five points. Al Ahly’s slip allowed their compatriots Ismaily the opportunity to overtake them in the standings. Things looked good for Ismaily early on in their game away at Heartland FC when Emad Soliman gave them the lead on 31 minutes but the lead only lasted until the 40 minute before Ikechukwu Ibenegbu restored parity for the home side. The match winner came with only five minutes left to play, Chinedu Efugh’s strike ultimately being the difference between the two teams. Heartland FC are in third place in the standings with four points, one more than Ismaily and one behind Al Ahly. The top two will want to secure their semi-final places in home fixtures on Matchday 5 with JS Kabylie playing Ismaily whilst Ah Ahly plays host to Heartland FC.
WATCH AL AHLY v JS KABYLIE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The Confederation Cup reached its second matchday this weekend with Al-Hilal and CS Sfaxien in charge of their respective groups. Sudan’s Al Hilal won their second consecutive game, the only team to have done so in the group stage, with an impressive 4-2 win over ASFAN FC from Niger. ASFAN were 2-1 up at the break but goals from Khalefa Ahmed Mohamed, Demba Barry and Edward Sedomba secured the victory for Al Hilal who lead the table by three points from Libyans Ittihad who got off the mark with a 1-0 win over Malian side Djoliba FC with Felix Katongo’s 72nd minute goal proving decisive. CS Sfaxien kept up Tunisian football’s continental prowess with a 3-0 victory over north African neighbours FUS Rabat from Morocco. Hamza Younes bagged a brace and Abbas Hashim scored the third which allowed Sfaxien to jump above their opponents in the standings. The other Group B game saw Ahmed Salama secure a precious point for Egyptians Haras El Hodood with an equalizing goal eight minutes from time in their 1-1 encounter with Zambians Zanaco FC, who had taken the lead after 47 minutes through Mathews Macha. Haras El Hodood are third in the group standings with two points, one ahead of Zanaco FC.
UEFA Europa League winners Atlético de Madrid claimed their first UEFA Super Cup title last night defeating UEFA Champions League holders FC Internazionale 2-0 in the Stade Louis II, Monaco. Since the game became an annual one-off fixture in 1998 the winners of Europe’s secondary club competition (Cup Winners Cup until 1999; UEFA Cup & Europa League thereafter) have been victorious in this tournament eight times in thirteen matches with Atlético’s triumph meaning that they became the fifth Spanish club to get their hands on the trophy in the last decade following Real Madrid (2002), Valencia CF (2004), Sevilla FC (2006) and FC Barcelona (2009). The defeat for Inter meant that their quest to emulate FC Barcelona’s “sextuple” of 2009 is over although they still have the chance to become Club World Cup champions in Abu Dhabi in December.
Rafael Benítez had begun life as Internazionale coach just seven days earlier by lifting the Italian Super Cup and had ambitions to win the European equivalent for the second time after he was successful in this competition with Liverpool FC in 2005. However Atleti coach Quique Sánchez Flores had other ambitions and wanted to build on his team’s Europa League triumph by winning another piece of silverware to his club’s fanatical supporters who were in much the better voice during the UEFA Super Cup match even before the goals went in. The first half was played at a good pace without many real chances being created although Sergio “Kun” Agüero should’ve had a penalty kick after just six minutes after being brought down in the box by Walter Samuel.
In the second half Inter began to have more possession but didn’t show the necessary desire to do anything with the ball whilst Atlético’s hunger for the win was more obvious and it was they who carved out the chances needed to win the game. In the 62nd minute the deadlock ws broken after José Antonio Reyes’ hard, low shot beat Júlio César to give los Rojiblancos a deserved lead. Atleti doubled the advantage with just seven minutes of the game remaining after the wonderful Simão broke down the left and crossed the ball to gift Agüero a tap-in from a couple of yards out with Inter’s defence remaining static behind him. There was still time for some late drama after Goran Pandev had been brought down in the box in the 88th minute but Inter’s luck had eluded them after David de Gea brilliantly saved Diego Milito’s penalty kick to ensure that the Super Cup would be winging its way to the trophy room at the Estadio Vicente Calderón.
Both teams now get back to business domestically on Monday night with Atlético de Madrid at home to Sporting de Gijón whilst defending Serie A champions Inter face a potentially tough away trip to Bologna, a match which Benítez must win if he is to silence any early-season doubters.
WATCH UEFA SUPER CUP HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
SEE THE TROPHY PRESENTATION HERE:
After last season’s inaugural final the UEFA Europa League has made its mark on the European football scene after a thrilling 2009-10 final between English underdogs Fulham FC and eventual champions Atlético de Madrid. The Rojiblancos finally claimed a second major European triumph after having waited 48 years since their European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph of the 1961-62 season and now have their sights on reclaiming the trophy as they qualified automatically for this season’s group stages as defending title holders. Fulham FC may not be participating in this season’s tournament but the coach who took them to Hamburg, Roy Hodgson, will be trying again as coach of Liverpool FC who have won this trophy three times in its previous guise of the UEFA Cup. The group stage draw for the 2010-11 UEFA Europa League took place in Monte Carlo today ahead of tonight’s UEFA Super Cup final and there are some interesting match-ups waiting to happen in this tournament which climaxes in the new Aviva Stadium, Dublin on Wednesday, May 18th 2011:
GROUP A: Juventus (Italy); Manchester City (England); RB Salzburg (Austria); Lech Poznan (Poland)
GROUP B: Atlético de Madrid (Spain); Bayer Leverkusen (Germany); Rosenborg (Norway); Aris (Greece)
GROUP C: Sporting (Portugal); Lille OSC (France); Levski Sofia (Bulgaria); KAA Gent (Belgium)
GROUP D: Villarreal (Spain); Club Brugge (Belgium); Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia); PAOK (Greece)
GROUP E: AZ Alkmaar (Holland); Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine); BATE Borisov (Belarus); FC Sheriff (Moldova)
GROUP F: CSKA Moscow (Russia); Palermo (Italy); Sparta Prague (Czech Republic); Lausanne (Switzerland)
GROUP G: Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia); Anderlecht (Belgium); AEK Athens (Greece); Hajduk Split (Croatia)
GROUP H: VfB Stuttgart (Germany); Getafe (Spain); Odense BK (Denmark); Young Boys (Switzerland)
GROUP I: PSV Eindhoven (Holland); Sampdoria (Italy); Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine); Debreceni (Hungary)
GROUP J: Sevilla CF (Spain); Paris St. Germain (France); Borussia Dortmund (Germany); Karpaty Lviv (Ukraine)
GROUP K: Liverpool (England); Steaua Bucharest (Romania); Napoli (Italy); FC Utrecht (Holland)
GROUP L: FC Porto (Portugal); Besiktas (Turkey); CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria); Rapid Wien (Austria)
The second round of matches in the CONCACAF Champions League group phase have been completed and the competition is starting to hot up for all of the sixteen teams involved in North and Central America’s elite club competition. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest action.
After a winning start to the competition Toronto FC had to suffer defeat on Matchday 2 at the hands of Panamanians Arabe Unido. The Canadian champions lost their Group A encounter 1-0 and suffered the ignominy of having two players sent off. Arabe Unido’s goal was scored by Fidel Caesar five minutes before half-time but it wasn’t clear whether the ball had crossed the line or not but the referee was clear in his decision and awarded the goal. Five minutes after the break and the first sending off for Toronto FC when Nick LaBrocca’s sliding challenge on keeper Jose Calderon in the Arabe Unido penalty area was deemed dangerous. The result was probably a fair one seeing as the home side had made the most dangerous attacking plays but this will come as no consolation to Toronto who also had Fuad Mohamed sent off late in the game for after picking up a second yellow card for dissent. In the other game the rain and the goalmouth action didn’t stop in what was an amazing match between Cruz Azul and Real Salt Lake. Javier Orozco scored four times for Cruz Azul but it looked like those goals would mean little when Real Salt Lake’s Will Johnson equalized two minutes into stoppage time to give the game an incredible 4-4 scoreline. But just sixty seconds later Cruz Azul amazingly scored a fifth goal thanks to Christian Giménez which meant that the Mexicans finally won the game and joined the other teams in this group with three points after two matches. Matchday three sees Arabe Unido at home to Cruz Azul whilst Real Salt Lake will wish to forget that bitter defeat with a win against Toronto FC.
WATCH CRUZ AZUL v REAL SALT LAKE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The two winning teams from the opening round of Group B games faced off in Mexico on Matchday 2 as Santos Laguna met Columbus Crew to see if either could keep a 100% record. The game seemed to be petering out into a goalless stalemate until a dramatic stoppage time winner from Santos Laguna’s Jorge Estrada gave the Mexicans all three points at the death. This result allowed the losing teams from Matchday 1, Joe Public FC and C.S.D. Municipal the opportunity to gain some ground on the Americans but neither was able to take full advantage. Mario Rodriguez appeared to have given Municipal victory with his 77th minute effort but Joe Public secured a point three minutes into stoppage time through Micah Lewis. On Matchday 3 Joe Public play away at Columbus Crew while Municipal have a tough home tie against group leaders Santos Laguna.
Matchday two proved to be very disappointing for all American teams and this was confirmed with a 2-0 home defeat for the Seattle Sounders by Mexican side C.F. Monterrey in Group C. Neri Cardozo gave the visitors the lead four minutes before half-time and Aldo de Nigris sealed the win when firing home in the 58th minute to silence the home crowd and further the agony for the Sounders. The other match saw Hondurans C.D. Marathón travel to Costa Rica to take on Deportivo Saprissa and the visitors took the lead after 32 minutes after Victor Cordero was unfortunate to deflect the ball into his own net. His disappointment wouldn’t last long, however, as Saprissa began to dominate proceedings and equalized just a minute later through Alejandro Sequeira. Second half strikes from Jairo Arrieta, Josue Martinez and Armando Alonso allowed Saprissa to cruise through the tie in the end and the 4-1 scoreline was just for the efforts. On Matchday three Saprissa will hope to keep up momentum against bottom side Seattle whilst many will expect Monterrey to see off the challenge of Marathón.
WATCH SEATTLE SOUNDERS v CF MONTERREY HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Puerto Rico Islanders got their first win in Group D brushing aside the challenge of El Salvador’s FAS by four goals to one. Jonathan Faña scored a brace whilst team mates David Foley and Nicholas Adderley also got in on the act for the CFU Caribbean champions with Williams Reyes scoring a consolation goal for FAS. Deportivo Toluca kept up the good record for Mexican teams on Matchday 2 at home to Hondurans C.D. Olimpia with a 4-0 demolition of their hapless opponents. Juan Cuevas bagged a brace for Toluca in the first ten minutes with second half goals from Mancilla and Arevalo adding to Toluca’s impressive goal tally. In the next round of games Toluca will face a difficult match-up against Puerto Rico Islanders while Olimpia and FAS will hope to get their Champions League campaigns up and running with a win.
It’s that time again! The draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage has been completed in Monaco today. With the UEFA Europa League draw not taking place until tomorrow afternoon the spotlight was firmly fixed on Europe’s premier football competition which was won by Internazionale FC last season. The triumph was the first time the Milanese giants had been crowned Europe’s best since 1964/65 and fulfilled a remarkable treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League won in such glory at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid which, ironically, is now home to their treble-winning coach of last season José Mourinho. But who will win the trophy this year? Stoppage Time - International Football Blog gives you the full group stage draw for what should be another great season which climaxes at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday, May 28th 2011:
GROUP A: Internazionale FC (Italy); W. Bremen (Germany); Tottenham (England); FC Twente (Netherlands)
GROUP B: Olympique Lyonnais (France); SL Benfica (Portugal); Schalke 04 (Germany); Hapoel Tel-Aviv (Israel)
GROUP C: Manchester United (England); Valencia CF (Spain); Glasgow Rangers (Scotland); Bursaspor (Turkey)
GROUP D: FC Barcelona (Spain); Panathinaikos (Greece); FC København (Denmark); Rubin Kazan (Russia)
GROUP E: FC Bayern München (Germany); AS Roma (Italy); FC Basel (Switzerland); CFR Cluj (Romania)
GROUP F: Chelsea FC (England); O. Marseille (France); Spartak Moscow (Russia); MŠK Žilina (Slovakia)
GROUP G: AC Milan (Italy); Real Madrid (Spain); AFC Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands); AJ Auxerre (France)
GROUP H: Arsenal FC (England); Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine); SC Braga (Portugal); FK Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)
LDU Quito hold a narrow 2-1 advantage over Estudiantes de La Plata after the first leg of the Recopa, South America’s Super Cup, which was played in their home Estadio Casa Blanco in the Ecuadorian capital. All of the goals came in the first seventeen minutes of the game which pits the winners from the 2009 editions of the Copa Libertadores (Estudiantes) and Copa Sudamericana (LDU Quito) together over two legs. LDU Quito are the defending Recopa holders as they won last year’s competition against Brazilians Internacional and they are hoping to become only the third team to win back-to-back titles along with Brazilians São Paulo (1993, 1994) and, more recently, Argentinians Boca Juniors (2005, 2006). Hernán Barcos gave the home side the lead after just eight minutes, heading home from close range which gave Estudiantes keeper César Taborda no chance. The Argentinians didn’t remain behind for long and equalized a mere four minutes later after Marcos Rojo fired home from six yards out following LDU’s inability to clear their lines from a free-kick. Sadly for Estudiantes they were to fall behind once more after 17 minutes when Barcos scored his second. After winning the ball in the penalty box the Argentine forward shot low past Taborda to score what would be the winning goal of the first leg, thus setting up an intriging return leg which will be played next Wednesday in La Plata.
WATCH LDU QUITO v ESTUDIANTES de LA PLATA 1ST LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The 35th official UEFA Super Cup final takes place in its now-traditional home of the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo on Friday and is guaranteed to crown a first-time winner this year with UEFA Champions League winners Internazionale FC and the inaugural UEFA Europa League champions Atlético Madrid both appearing in their maiden Super Cup match. But the tournament has suffered a fair amount of ups and downs before becoming the showpiece event that it is today. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the history of this gala footballing event.
The European Super Cup came into being in 1972 and has certainly endured a troubled time in becoming accepted as a creditable football competition due to scheduling difficulties and, on some occasions, political differences. The inaugural event wasn’t even officially recognised by European football’s governing body UEFA on the grounds that the then European Cup Winners’ Cup holders Glasgow Rangers were banned from European club competition for one year after a pitch invasion which took place in their ECWC victory over Dinamo Moscow. Therefore the 1972 event was sponsored by the Dutch newpaper De Telegraaf one of whose writers, Anton Witkamp, came up with the eureka moment which brought this competition about with his idea intended to see if the great Ajax Amsterdam team really was the best in Europe. As it turned out Ajax were to prove both unofficially and officially that they were the crème de la crème of European football. Having beaten Glasgow Rangers 6-3 on aggregate in the 1972 edition they then hammered AC Milan 6-1 on aggregate in the first UEFA endorsed Super Cup meeting twelve months later. The Dutch giants have appeared in two further finals since those halcyon days of Cruijff, Neeskens, Krol et al and have had mixed fortunes losing to FC Porto in 1987 but beating Real Zaragoza in 1995.
But this tournament is not just about Ajax Amsterdam even if they’ve had a significant part in its development. Italian giants AC Milan are the record champions of the event with five titles (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007) with their first two wins coming back-to-back, the only such example of this occurance in the competition’s history. Italian sides also have the most number of victories having won it on nine occasions (Milan 5, Juventus 2, AC Parma 1, Lazio 1) with Internazionale hoping to make it a perfect ten this year. As well as Italy, teams from Spain and England (7 wins each) are well represented in the list of winners and then comes Belgium for whom RSC Anderlecht (2 times) and KV Mechelen (1 time) won the trophy during a golden period for Belgian football in the 1970′s-80′s. Six different nations have provided one winner each with Scotland’s sole champions coming not from Glasgow but from Aberdeen who won the title in 1983 during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. Pedantically speaking the Soviet Union and Russia are different countries and the cup was won by Dynamo Kyiv (who, of course, are Ukrainian in any case!) and Zenit St Petersburg. Romania, Portugal and Turkey complete the set with Steaua Bucharest (1986), FC Porto (1987) and Galatasaray (2000). The most surprising statistic is that not a single team from Germany has ever lifted the trophy in seven attempts, FC Bayern München losing three times along with Hamburger SV (2 times), Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund. France has also never supplied a winning Super Cup champion but they’ve only ever supplied one finalist in the tournament’s history with Paris Saint Germain losing out to Juventus in 1996.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for this event with some of the finals having to be postponed or scrapped due to an inability to sort mutually convenient dates for the match. From 1972-1997 the Super Cup was a two-legged fixture played home and away and this didn’t always suit the teams involved in the fixture. The 1974 final between FC Bayern München and FC Magdeburg was never played with scheduling problems being the reason for the fixture’s cancellation but it was arguably the case that in the era of a divided Germany with political tensions between the Federal Republic (West Germany) and the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) it was unrealistic to expect this match to get the green light anyway. The 1981 final between Liverpool and Dinamo Tbilisi was never played due to the former’s complaints about fixture congestion whilst the 1984 contest also involving Liverpool was reduced to a one-off game played in Turin against Cup Winners Cup holders Juventus FC. Twelve months later a ban on English clubs in European competition following the events before the Liverpool v Juventus game at Heysel stadium meant that Everton FC were prevented from participating in the 1985 Super Cup against Juventus FC. In 1986 the game was again reduced to a one-off as both finalists came from eastern Europe with the match played in neutral Stade Louis II for the first time as Steaua Bucharest beat Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 in the final. When English clubs were allowed back into European competition Manchester United won the Cup Winners Cup and were due to play Crvena Zvezda in the 1991 Super Cup but the match could only be played as a one-off fixture at Old Trafford due to political tensions rising in the former Yugoslavia. Finally in 1993 UEFA Champions League winners Olympique Marseille were forced out of the Super Cup due to being found guilty of match-fixing charges and AC Milan, as UCL runners up, replaced them only to be beaten by AC Parma.
But whatever happens in this year’s fixture it will surely add to the growing reputation of a tournament in which both finalists know that they’ve already achieved major success in order to play in this competition. Internazionale FC have ambitions to match FC Barcelona’s “Sextuple” triumph of 2009 with victory in the European Super Cup meaning that the Nerazzurri will have five trophies in the trophy cabinet ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup tournament in December. For Atlético Madrid a victory will cement their place as one of Europe’s great clubs and will allow their fans to enjoy some more bragging rights over their illustrious neighbours Real Madrid CF, something they haven’t enjoyed too much of in recent years.
A fascinating contest awaits……
Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks at the latest South American league news:
There wasn’t a full programme of matches this weekend in Uruguay but the ball got rolling nonetheless with three teams getting off the mark with a win while the two other matches played at the weekend finished in stalemates. Liverpool had the biggest win of the weekend over Rampla Juniors and had to come from behind at home in order to gain the victory. After Nestor Moiraghi had given Juniors the lead just six minutes into the second half the home side managed to score three times in the space of five minutes thanks to strikes from Hernán Figueredo (70 minutes), Diego Vera (73) and Juan Álvez (75). Central Español, who narrowly avoided relegation last season, also started with a win with Federico Rodriquez’s 65th minute goal being the difference against newly-promoted Bella Vista. There was better luck for another promoted team after El Tanque Sisley, last season’s Segunda División champions, also got the better of their opening day opponents Racing Club de Montevideo by a goal to nil with Maximiliano Callorda scoring the only goal of the game. The two other games saw C.A. Fénix draw 1-1 at home to Tacuarembó and a goalless affair between Cerro and Danubio. To complete the opening round two matches are played on Wednesday with River Plate v Defensor and giants Nacional facing off against Montevideo Wanderers who also provide the opposition for defending champions Peñarol in their opening match on Saturday.
Three games into the new Argentina Apertura season sees contrasting fortunes for the big two of the league. River Plate are one of two teams (along with Vélez Sársfield) with a 100% record after los Millionarios defeated Independiente at home by three goals to two. An eventful opening twenty minutes saw a double from River’s Rogelio Funes Mori sandwich a lone strike from the visitors’ Andrés Silvera. Paulo Ferrari extended the lead for River after just 25 minutes but the crowd would have to wait until the final minute of the game before Independiente were to pull one back to provide the game with a nervous finish. River held out to win 3-2 and are in a great position to fight head-on the battle against relegation (based on the three year points average). Their arch-rivals Boca Juniors have had no such luck in the Apertura thus far going down to the second defeat in three games, the latest setback coming against newly-promoted All Boys who scored both their goals in a 2-0 victory in the first half which sends Boca down to 19th place in the table and increases the pressure on new coach Claudio Borghi. Joint leaders Vélez Sársfield had to wait until the last twenty minutes to secure their 2-0 win over last season’s Clausura champions Argentinos Juniors. Goals from Leandro Somoza (70 mins) and Santiago Silva (76) secured the perfect record for Vélez who are hoping to win a national title for the first time since the Clausura 2009 tournament.
WATCH RIVER PLATE v INDEPENDIENTE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The Brasileiro still continues to be tight between the front runners with two points separating league leaders Fluminense (15 games, 33 points) from Corinthians. Fluminense took the lead in an all-Rio de Janeiro match-up with rivals Vasco da Gama thanks to an early 6th minute strike from Gum but Vasco turned the match around with strikes from Éder Luís (37 minutes) and Fagner (48) before parity was restored through Júlio César on the hour mark to give Fluminense a share of the points. There was another local derby when Corinthians got the better of São Paulo FC by three goals to nil with Elias scoring twice in the first half before Jucilei sealed the deal on 70 minutes to narrow the gap at the top. This weekend sees cross-city rivalries take centre stage for both title chasers as Fluminense play Palmeiras at home whilst Corinthians travel to Rio in order to play Vasco da Gama.
WATCH FLUMINENSE v VASCO DA GAMA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
In Chile’s Primera División league leaders and record champions Colo Colo (21 games, 47 points) had Matias Quiroga to thank for keeping the club at the top of the table by scoring the only goal in their 1-0 victory over Unión Española. Nearest challengers Universidad Católica remain just a single point behind Colo Colo following their 4-1 destruction of bottom club San Luis whilst third place Universidad de Chile managed to put a first minute goal behind them and come back to beat Huachipato by three goals to one to maintain a five gap between themselves and the leaders but Universidad de Chile have played one game less than the top two and can get back in the title race should they win their game in hand.
WATCH COLO COLO v UNION ESPANOLA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
In Colombia Santa Fe (6 games, 16 points) and Tolima are the only two unbeaten teams after six matches in this year’s edition of the Copa Mustang. Mario González struck just before the hour mark to give league leaders Santa Fe a slender 1-0 win over Pereira FC while Tolima, two points behind the leaders, kept up the pace with a 3-1 victory over Chicó FC. In Venezuela two teams have 100% records after three games in the new Primera División season with Deportivo Táchira and Caracas FC leading the way although Real Esppor club have the chance to join these teams on this statistic as they have played only two games so far. Deportivo Táchira and Caracas FC gained their latest victories against Trujillanos FC (3-1) and Estudiantes de Merida (1-0) respectively.