Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Asia: Japan and South Korea in cup semi-final action

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on September 29, 2010

In South Korea Suwon Bluewings and Buson I’Park won their KFA Cup semi-finals after hard fought encounters with Jeju United and Chunnam Dragons respectively. In Japan the J-League Cup has reached its final four stage and the first legs of the semi-finals were played today. Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kawasaki Frontale hold the advantage after they defeated their opponents Shimuzu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata respectively. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the action.

The South Korean FA Cup is an important trophy for all teams who enter it as the winner of the tournament gets one of the coveted four spots reserved for South Korean clubs in the Asian Champions League. Both of today’s semi-finals were keenly fought with both going into extra-time. Buson I’Park took a first half lead against Chunnam Dragons thanks to Ho-Jun Yu’s 37th minute strike but the Dragons equalized thirteen minutes from the end of normal time through Indio. In extra-time Busan regained the lead through Jung Hwa-Han only to see Adriano Chuva restore parity for the second time on behalf of Chunnam. It was left to Ji Ho-Han to score what proved to be the winning goal with ten minutes of extra-time remaining and they now face Suwon Bluewings in the final after their game against Jeju United saw the dreaded penalty shoot-out after a goalless 120 minutes. Suwon Bluewings held their nerve to go through by three goals to two and seal a date with Buson in the final.

The J-League Cup is third on the priority list of Japanese domestic football following the J-League and the Emperor’s Cup. Nonetheless this tournament guarantees the winner an international cup final where they will meet the winners of the Copa Sudamericana in next year’s Suruga Bank Championship which was won by a Japanese team, FC Tokyo, for the first time in the tournament’s history in 2010.

In Yahama Stadium in Iwata home side Jubilo were hoping to take full advantage of playing in front of a partisan crowd in the first leg but it was the visitors from Kawasaki who would triumph. Striker Masaru Korotsu, who has played with Kawasaki Frontale in all of his career, gave his side the crucial breakthrough after 50 minutes. In the other semi-final Sanfreece Hiroshima won their home leg against Shimuzu S-Pulse by the odd goal in three. The hosts took a two goal lead with strikes from Tadanari Lee and Yojiro Takahagi but the visitors reduced the deficit on 76 minutes through Takuma Edamura and who knows how important that goal could prove to be?

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Brazil: Libertadores champs back in hunt for Brasileiro; Review (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on September 27, 2010

Corinthians started the weekend as league leaders in the Campeonato Brasileiro but ended it in second place. O Timão were involved in a thrilling encounter with this year’s Copa Libertadores (South American Champions League) winners Internacional whose victory allowed Fluminense to leapfrog Corinthians into first place. With three more teams a handful of points behind the leaders the Brazilian championship is still one of the most open in world football and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at yet another captivating weekend in South America’s most exciting league.

Internacional have had a tough schedule in the Brasileiro since mid-August when they were crowned South America’s best team for the second time. In what was their eleventh league match in thirty-eight days Internacional welcomed league leaders Corinthians to their Estadio Beira-Rio home and it was the home team who went ahead after half an hour thanks to the cool, calm finishing of Tinga. After the break Jorge Henrique equalized with a beautifully curled shot for Corinthians in the 65th minute but it wouldn’t be long before they were behind again, allowing Alecsandro to creep in at the far post after 77 minutes from an Andrés D’Alessandro cross. But just when Inter thought it was afe to assume that the three points were theirs they suffered a setback when Corinthians won a 91st minute penalty kick which was converted by Bruno César. But that didn’t prove the end of the action as Andrezinho remarkably gave Inter the lead yet again with a free-kick goal four minutes into stoppage time to send the home crowd wild and that proved to be the last action of a pulsating match.

WATCH INTERNACIONAL v CORINTHIANS GOALS HERE:

The unfortunate circumstances in which Corinthians lost their game were only compounded by the fact that Fluminense went on to win their game away at Esporte Clube Vitória. Darío Conca’s 56th minute penalty gave O Fluzão the lead only for the home side to equalize six minutes later through Henrique. The disappointment for Fluminense wouldn’t last long, however, as they regained the lead just sixty seconds later after Rodriguinho finished off a beautiful move to score the goal which made the game 2-1 which was how it stayed. Before the weekend Cruzeiro were one of the form teams having won six of their previous seven games but that meant nothing as they went down to a heavy 4-1 reverse at the hands of sixth place Santos FC for whom Neymar, a target for English champions Chelsea FC,  scored the fourth in stoppage time at the end of the game. In contrast to Cruzeiro’s good form Botafogo had only won one game in the last four before they had to settle for a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Atlético Paranaense. Edno’s 22nd minute goal for Botafogo looked like being the winner before a 90th minute equalizer from Joffre Guerrón meant that the home team would drop two more crucial points in the race for the title.

Fluminense lead the way with 48 points from 25 games but they are followed by Corinthians on 47 points and who have a crucial game in hand. Third place Cruzeiro have 44 points from 25 games whilst Internacional climbed up to fourth as they now have 41 points from 24 games. In fifth place lies Botafogo whose recent bad form has seen them drop eight points off the pace as they have 40 points from 25 matches. From now until the end of the season the Brasileiro is one league that you can’t afford to miss.

WATCH VITORIA v FLUMINENSE GOALS HERE:

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Chile: Quadruple assault on the title (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on September 27, 2010
Cristobal Jorquera

Cristóbal Jorquera scored Colo-Colo's last-gasp winner this weekend

Chile’s football championship has reached new heights of excitement after this weekend’s round of matches as the title race begins to reach the final straight. Five points separate the top four teams with fourth place Audax Italiano announcing themselves as serious title contenders following their weekend 3-2 victory away at fellow challengers Universidad Católica. Champions Colo-Colo were the main beneficiaries of the weekend as their 2-1 away win at Deportes La Serena was complimented by the news of defeats to league leaders Universidad de Chile as well as third place Católica. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest action in one of South America’s top leagues.

Record champions Colo-Colo are hoping to win their 30th domestic championship this season and they took what could be a significant step towards their goal with a last-gasp victory away to Deportes La Serena. The home side had the lead following Mauricio Salazar’s goal on 33 minutes and that was how the score remained at half-time. Colo-Colo came back out in determined mood for the second half and had Esteban Paredes to thank for restoring parity just seven minutes after the break. A point would not have been bad for Colo-Colo but, in a dramatic finish to the game, Cristóbal Jorquera ensured that they got all three with a stoppage time free-kick winner to send Colo-Colo on level points with league leaders Universidad de Chile.

SEE ‘LIVE FOOTAGE’ OF JORQUERA’S WINNING GOAL HERE:

Universidad de Chile missed the chance to maintain the three point gap between themselves and Colo-Colo after going down to a 2-1 home reverse against Palestino. The visitors took a two goal lead in the first half through Juan Albornoz (9 minutes) and Gerardo Cortés (37′) before Diego Rivarola halved the deficit for the hosts nine minutes into the second half. The defeat means that Universidad have lost their last two games and thus gave Universidad Católica the opportunity to overtake both Universidad de Chile and Colo-Colo at the top of the standings but it proved to be a very difficult match at home to fourth place Audax Italiano.

Audax, who were unbeaten in their previous eleven league matches before the Católica game, were the form team amongst the top four and went on to prove this despite falling behind to an early third minute goal from Católica’s Roberto Gutierrez. Audax equalized midway through the first half thanks to Lucas Domínguez before going on to take a two goal lead immediately after the interval with Matías Campos’s goals in the 46th and 48th minutes stunning the hosts into silence. Although Católica hit back on 56 minutes with Gutíerrez’s second goal of the game it would ultimately prove not to be enough.

As a result of this weekend’s games Universidad de Chile still hold the league leadership but only by virtue of goals scored. They have 51 points from 25 games with Colo-Colo on the same number of points with a game in hand. Universidad Católica lie in third place just one point behind the top two while Audax’s win moves them to within four points of their defeated weekend opponents to keep their hopes of the title alive.

Mexico: Champions Four lead the way in Apertura (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on September 27, 2010
Cruz Azul v Monterrey

Cruz Azul (light blue shirts) and Monterrey have the best records in the Apertura after nine games

Nine matches into Mexico’s 19 game Torneo Apertura regular season and it is the quartet of teams who are currently gracing the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) who have the best records amongst all of the teams in their domestic top flight. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments.

For those unfamiliar with the make-up of Mexico’s domestic league the championship is split into two halves: Torneo Apertura (Opening Championship) and Torneo Clausura (Closing Championship). In each championship eighteen teams are split into three groups of six and every team plays each other once during the regular season. The eight teams with the best records then begin the knockout phase to decide the winner of that particular championship. At the moment the Apertura has effectively reached the halfway stage and the four teams with the best records are currently those same four involved in North and Central America’s elite club competition, reviews of which you can read about on Stoppage Time throughout the season.

Two of the CONCACAF representatives top the standings in Group 1 where Monterrey (the only team with a 100% record in the CCL) and Santos Laguna have been fighting for the leadership over the weekend. Monterrey were top going into Matchday 9 but were held to a goalless draw away at Querétaro which allowed Santos Laguna the opportunity to go to Club América and reclaim the leadership. Alas they were defeated in an exciting game by the odd goal in five as goals from Christian Benítez and Fernando Arce were not enough for Santos as they lost 3-2 with all of the goals coming in the first half. In the group standings Monterrey have 19 points from 9 games but Santos are a point behind with a game in hand.

Group 2 sees Toluca hold a narrow one point lead following their weekend victory 2-1 away at Monarcas Morelia. All of the goals came in the second half with Hugo Droguett’s 54th minute goal for the home side being sandwiched by strikes from Toluca’s Héctor Mancilla (51 mins) and Néstor Calderón (67 mins) which allowed the visitors to come away with the three points. Real San Luis had the chance to go above Toluca prematurely on Saturday night but missed out after they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away at Jaguares. Both teams went in at the break tied at 1-1 and it was a goal from Jaguares’ Carlos Ochoa midway through the second half which proved decisive. Club América, following their Sunday victory against Santos, now lie second in the group.

The team with the best record at this stage is Cruz Azul. The 2009 CCL finalists have a nine point advantage over Jaguares at the top of Group 3, this despite going down to a 2-1 defeat on Saturday away at Necaxa. Christian Giménez’s 66th minute penalty halved the deficit for Cruz Azul after Darío Gandín (13 minutes) and Nicolás Pavlovich (36 mins) had given the home side a healthy two goal cushion at half time. Unfortunately Cruz Azul were unable to find an equalizer but that shouldn’t deter the team from finding their way into the play-offs as they currently hold a 7-0-2 record after nine games and are well on course in both domestic and international competition, just like their fellow group table-toppers.

WATCH NECAXA v CRUZ AZUL GOALS HERE:

Latvia: Skonto triumph in Round of 16; Cup Review

Posted in European Football by peterbein on September 26, 2010
Latvian Cup - Latvijas Kauss

Who will win the 2010-11 Latvian Cup?

Latvian Virslīga leaders Skonto Riga played out a tough game today in the Latvian Cup Round of 16 overcoming Pirmā līga (2nd tier) leaders FB Gulbene-2005 by three goals to two. Unbeaten in the second division with a ten point lead with five matches to play, FB Gulbene -2005 have already pretty much sealed the title so this was always going to be a potential banana skin for the record seven time cup winners Skonto. In front of a 2,150 crowd at the home of the 2nd division leaders Skonto seemed to be strolling when taking a two goal lead after 27 minutes thanks to strikes from Latvian international Andrejs Perepļotkins and Denills Turkovs but, with ten minutes to go before the break, Gulbene pulled one back through Vladimirs Kamešs. Alexandrs Starkovs men regained a two goal cushion when another Latvian international, Aleksandrs Cauņa, struck just after the hour mark and it looked as if Skonto would dominate the match until the end but FB Gulbene-2005 had other ideas and made Skonto sweat as stoppage time approached thanks to Minori Sato’s 89th minute goal. Sadly, for the home team, time ran out before they could find an equalizer and Skonto came through and qualified for the Latvian Cup quarter-finals which take place after the new year.

There were four other matches in Latvia’s knockout competition on Sunday. 2006 winners Liepājas Metalurgs left it late to dispose of fellow top flight outfit SK Blāzma Rēzekne in their Round of 16 clash with Andrejs Prohorenkovs clinching the victory with just two minutes to go and, thus, spare his side a further thirty minutes of extra-time and, potentially, a penalty shoot-out. Two teams that did have to endure the lottery of penalties were JFK Olimps/RFS and 2009-10 cup finalists FK Jūrmala-VV. The latter lost out to FK Jelgava in the 2009-10 cup final by virtue of a penalty shoot-out (click on the Away Days section to read my report from that game) but were to experience victory this out after the game remained goalless after 120 minutes. Former Arsenal FC player Igors Stepanovs scored the deciding penalty after JFK Olimps’ Reinis Broders had missed his crucial seventh spot kick and, thus, saw FK Jūrmala-VV win the shoot-out 7-6. In a tale of two Daugavas there was an upset in Riga where 2nd division FK Daugava Riga turned over top flight FK Tranzits by three goals to one whilst FC Daugava from the city of Daugavpils easily disposed of Otrā Līga (3rd tier) side FC Salaspils with a 10-0 scoreline, Mamuka Ghonghadze starring with a hat-trick whilst Andrejs Kovaļovs and Valērijs Afanasjevs both bagged a brace in the rout.

Three more Round of 16 matches take place in October with three Virslīga sides facing off against three teams from the Pirmā Līga. Four times cup winners FK Ventspils meet 2nd division FK Spartaks in Jūrmalā, FK Jaunība Riga face an away trip to 2nd division Valmeiras FK/BBS and defending Latvian Cup holders FK Jelgava start the defence of their title when they travel to play FS Metta/LU.FK Jaunība

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Bundesliga: Mainz maintain perfect record in Munich

Posted in European Football by peterbein on September 25, 2010
Adam Szalai

Ádám Szalai scored the winner in Mainz's 2-1 victory away at FC Bayern

The German Bundesliga saw an intriging clash between champions FC Bayern München and top of the table 1. FSV Mainz 05 this afternoon at the former’s Allianz Arena home. The away team came to Munich as the only side with a perfect 100% record after five games in the 2010-11 campaign and was the biggest test yet for the club who had previously beaten VfB Stuttgart, VfL Wolfsburg, 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and 1.FC Köln.

FC Bayern, the Rekordmeister, are favourites going into every game in Germany but it was the table toppers who showed that they had no respect for their hosts by having the first major chances of the game through Ádám Szalai and Lewis Holtby before the latter’s 15th minute cross was turned home skillfully by Sami Allagui to put the Rheinlanders in front. The game continued with both teams making good chances and it seemed that Mainz were going in with a one goal advantage at the break before an unfortunate Bo Svensson own goal restored parity for the home team in first half stoppage time.

At this point many people would’ve predicted the champions to do what they always do and put the young pretenders to the sword but the misfortune that Mainz suffered at the end of the first half did not affect their game after the pause and it was they who continued to take the attack to FC Bayern. They got their reward in the 77th minute after substitute André Schürrle crossed the ball from the right and it arrived at the feet of forward Ádám Szalai who had his back to goal but was able to hit the ball on the turn into the top right hand corner of the goal from 14 yards out. The Hungarian, who was signed from Real Madrid after last season’s loan period, scored his third goal in Mainz colours and it was without doubt his most spectacular and important.

FC Bayern did have a couple of chances towards the end of the game but coach Louis van Gaal and his players would be left shell-shocked at the sight of the scoreboard at the end of the match. Mainz had preserved their 100% record and for coach Thomas Tuchel, who has only held the job since August 2009, it is just reward for what he has done for the team in such a short space of time. Having led the club to a respectable ninth place in 2009-10, it is fantastic to see an under-rated coach achieve early success with a young team who have defied all expectations. Mainz lead the table with 18 points, ten ahead of FC Bayern who lie in an unfamiliar 8th place. Now, of course, the tough job is only just beginning: how long can they stay there?

Copa Sudamericana: 2nd Round Review (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on September 24, 2010

The Copa Sudamericana has completed its second round and what a thrilling ride it’s been. Seven of the fifteen matches at this stage were either all-Argentinian or all-Brazilian affairs whilst the other eight matches saw plenty of goals flying in across the continent. With the fifteen winners going through to the next round along with defending title holders LDU Quito Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments in a tournament which is starting to capture the imagination in South America.

As reported in the previous Sudamericana blog the four all-Brazilian ties were completed some time ago and delivered some interesting results. In case you’ve forgotten here is a quick re-cap. Palmeiras were involved in one of the ties of the round having come back from a 2-0 first leg defeat to go through with a 3-0 second leg victory over Esporte Clube Vitória. Santos, who have won the Paulista and Copa Brasil so far in 2010, won’t be adding the Sudamericana to the trophy cabinet after a 3-2 aggregate defeat at the hands of Avaí whilst Atlético Mineiro and Goiás also went through knocking out Grêmio Prudente and Grêmio Porto Alegre respectively. In Argentina Independiente were the first club from that country to go through to the Round of 16 with a 2-1 aggregate win over Argentinos Juniors, Leandro Gracián’s 66th minute goal in the second leg proving the difference between the two sides. Goals from Christian García and Marcelo Carrusca in either leg helped Banfield to a 2-1 aggregate win over Vélez Sársfield whilst Newell’s Old Boys also made it to the next round defeating 2009 Copa Libertadores winners Estudiantes de La Plata by the same aggregate scoreline.

WATCH ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA v NEWELL’S OLD BOYS 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Two clubs with decorated histories in their national championships and the Copa Libertadores faced each other in this round as Uruguayans Peñarol and Ecuadorians Barcelona SC slugged it out and the two legs were certainly tight affairs. Peñarol got the better of the tie winning 3-1 on aggregate but they were made to work hard for their victory with all of the goals coming in the last half an hour of each leg (1-0; 2-1). Peñarol’s compatriots Defensor Sporting made it two out of two going through to the next round in the most incredible tie of the round. Defensor won their first leg against Peruvians Sport Huancayo by an amazing 9-0 scoreline with six different players getting on the score sheet. Huancayo restored some pride in the second leg by winning 2-0 but by then the damage was already done. Fellow Peruvians Universidad San Martin were also dealt a harsh lesson by Ecuadorian side Emelec. After the Peruvians gained a narrow 2-1 win over Emelec in the first leg the Ecuadorian giants dished out a 5-0 beating in the return fixture to ensure progress into the third round.

WATCH PENAROL V BARCELONA 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Bolivian teams very nearly made it a triple success but ultimately Oriente Petrolero let the side down with a narrow 2-1 aggregate defeat by Colombians Deportes Tolima. San José and Club Universitario were successful in their efforts to keep the Bolivian flag flying in this competition with aggregate wins over Colombians Atlético Hulia (5-1) and Paraguayans Cerro Porteño (3-2) respectively. It was up to Club Guaraní (Paraguay) and Unión San Felipe (Chile) to keep their nation’s hopes alive as they fought a tough battle to reach the last 16. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Asunción, in which the Chileans equalized three minutes into stoppage time, the second leg ended up with a similar scoreline and thus the match went to penalties with the Chileans holding their nerve to seal their place in the next round. The final match up involved Venezuelans Caracas FC and Club Santa Fe of Colombia with the latter’s 2-1 first leg victory proving decisive overall in the tie as the second leg on Thursday finished in a goalless draw.

Now the fifteen teams have qualified alongside the 2009 champions LDU Quito for the Round of 16 phase here is the full draw for the next stage:

San José (Bolivia) v Newell’s Old Boys (Argentina)

Independiente (Argentina) v Defensor Sporting (Uruguay)

Peñarol (Uruguay) v Goiás (Brazil)

Palmeiras (Brazil) v Club Universitario (Bolivia)

Santa Fe (Colombia) v Atlético Mineiro (Brazil)

Avaí FC (Brazil) v Emelec (Ecuador)

Deportes Tolima (Colombia) v Banfield (Argentina)

LDU Quito (Ecuador) v Unión San Felipe (Chile)

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CONCACAF: Champions League (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on September 24, 2010

It’s been another crucial round of matches in the CONCACAF Champions League with a couple of teams on the verge of confirming their places in the quarter-finals of the tournament. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews all the action from Matchday 4 of the group stages:

Matchday 4 got under way on Tuesday night with a Group A encounter between Cruz Azul and Canadian champions Toronto FC. Cruz Azul were determined to gain revenge on the Canadians for their Matchday 1 defeat in Toronto and the Mexicans certainly took the game to the visitors. Toronto, however, were in no mood to gift three points to their hosts and managed to fight their way to a useful point with neither side hitting the back of the net. This gave Real Salt Lake the opportunity to overtake Cruz Azul into first in the table but they had to overcome the challenge from Arabe Unido in Panama City. Williams Aguilar gave the home side the lead after just two minutes but Real got over the early setback and went in 3-1 up at the break with a brace from Will Johnson and an Álvaro Saborío strike putting the Salt Lake City side on their way to three points. A 53rd minute penalty allowed Arabe Unido the chance to reduce the deficit and Mario Angulo hit the back of the net to give the home side a chance. The Americans held out for the win and they now top the group with nine points from four games, Cruz Azul two points behind.

Columbus Crew scraped a 1-0 victory at home to Santos Laguna, their nearest challengers for the top of Group B. Andrés Mendoza picked the ball up just outside Santos’ penalty area and drove the ball home past keeper Miguel Gonzalez to give the MLS outfit the three points to take the team to the top of the standings and virtually guarantee progress to the next round. The other match took place on Thursday night with Municipal and Joe Public hoping to win in order to give themselves a fighting chance of finishing second. An exciting five goal encounter was decided by Sergio Guevara whose 90th minute winner was enough to give Municipal the crucial 3-2 win.

WATCH COLUMBUS CREW v SANTOS LAGUNA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

An amazing game featured prominently in Group C with Mexicans Monterrey CF going behind to two first half goals from Seattle Sounders. An own goal from Sergio Pérez and a Michael Fucito goal sixty seconds before half-time gave Seattle hope that their first three points of the campaign were on their way to the bank. However the American side lost the plot and proceeded to let in three goals in the space of four second half minutes and allow Monterrey to regain the advantage. Aldo de Nigris pulled a goal back on 74 minutes and there was virtually no time for Seattle to get their breath back before Humberto Suazo equalized sixty seconds later. Seattle’s inexperience at this level began to tell as they allowed a third goal into the back of the net on 78 minutes as Monterrey won a penalty which was finished by Luis Pérez to turn the game completely on its head. The other game saw Hondurans C.D. Marathón claim their second victory of the tournament with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa. Mario René Berrios and an own goal from Esteban Sarias gave the home side a 2-0 lead before Saprissa pulled one back through Jairo Arrieta but the win allowed Marathón to join Saprissa on six points in the fight for second spot. Monterrey have effectively already qualifed for the quarter-finals as they maintain their 100% record in the competition.

WATCH MONTERREY CF v SEATTLE SOUNDERS HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

A disappointing goalless draw on Wednesday evening between FAS of El Salvador and Caribbean champions Puerto Rico Islanders meant that  Mexicans Toluca FC could as good as seal their quarter-final place with a win against Olimpia in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. However it didn’t go to plan for Toluca who went down to a 2-1 defeat and but they can still guarantee qualification on Matchday 5 which takes place next week.

England: Carling defeats mean no end to Mersey hangover

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on September 23, 2010
Liverpool FC

Liverpool's defeat to Northampton Town was the biggest shock in the 3rd round

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Merseyside football it did. Much to the disappointment of loyal followers of Red and Blue everywhere the teams of Liverpool and Everton are not only struggling in the Premier League but have been knocked out of the Carling (League) Cup at the third round stage. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the situation.

In a third round which saw the likes of Chelsea FC, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City suffer early exits it was the two Merseyside clubs that suffered most. At least the aforementioned trio of clubs can claim to have been shown the door by fellow Premier League sides – by Newcastle United, Arsenal FC and West Bromwich Albion – whereas Liverpool and Everton were subject to penalty shoot-out losses at the hands of Northampton Town (4th tier) and Brentford (3rd tier) respectively.

These things do happen in football and even the biggest clubs have been known to be on the receiving end of an embarrassing defeat from time to time. What makes this so disastrous for the two giants of Merseyside football is that both clubs had pre-season plans to fight for the top four in the league and embark on a decent cup run. After five games of the English Premier League so far both teams share just one win between them (Liverpool’s slender 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion) and lie at the wrong end of the standings. Liverpool have had a tough start which has seen them drop two points late on against Arsenal on the opening day of the 2010-11 campaign before going down to subsequent losses to both Manchester clubs (a bitter pill to swallow if ever there was one). This sees the club lying in 16th place with just five points from a possible fifteen. For Everton, however, the current scenario is even worse having only secured two points from five games. One of those was an unlikely one against Manchester United when the Toffees were 3-1 down with minutes to play and somehow seized a 3-3 draw in stoppage time. This spell at the beginning of the new campaign means that the Blues have made their worse start to a season for 16 years. When thoughts turned to the possibilities of winning trophies before the season started I don’t think their fans wanted to settle for the “Copa del Everton”, a game in which the Blues beat their South American namesakes from Chile during the pre-season campaign.

Brentford FC

Brentford players celebrate their penalty shoot-out win over Everton FC

So having started the league campaign badly it was imperative that both teams at least progressed to the fourth round of the League Cup in order to provide a much needed boost to each other’s confidence. Sadly the demise continued on Tuesday as Everton went to Griffin Park, the home of Brentford FC, and were made to pay for some wasteful finishing. Initially the Blues had started well with Seamus Coleman putting Everton in front after just six minutes but the League One side restored parity four minutes before the break thanks to Gary Alexander. Brentford could even have avoided the lottery of a penalty shoot-out by converting from the spot in normal time but Charlie MacDonald’s second half penalty kick was saved which brought about the extra thirty minutes and the shoot-out. For Brentford fans it was a famous victory although allegations from Everton coach David Moyes that one of the home team’s supporters threw a bottle towards the Everton end during the post-match pitch invasion could mar what was a fantastic victory.

That did appear to be the biggest shock of the round until their neighbours from across Stanley Park decided that they were going to put in a performance against Northampton Town that was every bit as wet as the weather on a very rainy evening at Anfield. Like the Blues on Tuesday it all started off so well for the Reds when new signing Milan Jovanović put Liverpool ahead after just nine minutes but the players then became sluggish and appeared disengaged as the Northampton team gained confidence gradually as the match went on. They got their reward in the 56th minute when Billy McKay allowed the League Two side the chance to dream of a famous night and when extra-time came around it would’ve been easy to write them off imagining that they would get tired legs as time wore on but there wasn’t a bit of it. Northampton took the lead thanks to Michael Jacobs’ close-range effort in front of a stunned Kop only for David Ngog to equalize at the same end in the second half of extra-time. With Liverpool’s proud history in penalty shoot-outs it was they who were favourites to scrape through especially as the shoot-out took place in front of the Kop. Northampton even missed their first penalty to help out the hosts but Liverpool were still unable to take advantage as David Ngog shot one of the worst penalties ever taken at Anfield well wide and the initiative went back to the visitors. Both teams exchanged successful kicks before Nathan Eccleston hit the bar with Liverpool’s fourth penalty so it was then up to Abdul Osman to make a name for himself and he did so with great aplomb to stun Anfield into silence. The performance was so bad that coach Roy Hodgson apologized for it immediately after the game.

So what next? The Merseyside Derby is played on October 17th and each team plays two league matches before the big one. Liverpool at least have the comfort of playing two home matches but their opponents of Sunderland and Blackpool should not be taken lightly. Sunderland are led by former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce who has a good record as a coach against the Reds while Blackpool have an attacking style of play under their coach Ian Holloway who will use the underdog status as a motivational tool to his players before their short trip to Anfield. Everton, on the other hand, face difficult away trips to Fulham FC, where they’ve only won once since the Premier League began, and to Birmingham City who have lost only two games in the last twelve months at their St Andrews home. For teams who had trophy winning ambitions before the season neither can predict where their next three points will come from at the moment. With the strength in depth of each squad I would bet on both teams’ fortunes improving sooner rather than later but before then a much needed dose of realpolitik is in order before they can start dreaming of silverware and something that’s a bit stronger than Carling to drink.

AFC: Steelers crash out of Champions League; AFC Review (+video)

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on September 22, 2010

Defending champions Pohang Steelers have been knocked out of the AFC Champions League by Iranian side Zob Ahan after they could only draw their home second leg 1-1 after going down to a 2-1 defeat seven days ago, thus losing 3-2 on aggregate. This and all the remaining games in this competiton and the AFC Cup are reviewed here on Stoppage Time – International Football Blog.

It’s already been a difficult season for Pohang Steelers and today’s events only rubbed salt further into the wounds. Tenth in the Korean League table and with virtually no chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, the Steelers had to successfully defend the trophy they won in 2009 if they were to have another crack of Asia’s premier club competition in 2011. Not only that but Pohang hadn’t won in their last four matches in all competitions so the odds seemed against them. But there was an early breakthrough for the Koreans after just ten minutes when Jae-Sung Kim put the Steelers into an early lead. Had the game stayed that way then Pohang would’ve gone through on the away goals rule but they were to suffer heartbreak with just ten minutes remaining. Mohammad Reza Khalatbari’s 80th minute equalizer gave the Iranians the advantage and Pohang needed a goal to take the game into extra-time. Zob Ahan felt the pressure as they tried to hang on and they had Mahdi Rajabzadeh sent off in the 86th minute to add to the drama. However there was to be no fairytale end for Pohang Steelers as time ran out and the champions had been dumped out of the tournament in front of their home supporters.

SEE POHANG STEELERS v ZOB AHAN 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

In the other AFC Champions League games the all-Korean quarter-final saw Suwon Bluewings bravely bow out at home to compatriots Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. Seongnam won the first leg 4-1 and they were confident of defending the lead going into the return fixture. However Suwon scored twice before the hour mark to make it a very nervy game for Seongnam, Ki Hun Yeom opening the scoring on 32 minutes and Sang-Ho Lee doubling the second leg lead on 59 minutes to set up a grand finale. However Suwon just couldn’t take the fight to Seongnam who were able to cling on to their 4-3 aggregate lead for the rest of the game and, thus, go through to the final four.

After taking half of the quarter-final spots the South Korean quartet has been reduced to just one representative in the final four as Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors also went out despite winning their second leg match against Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab by a goal to nil courtesy of Ji Woong-Kim’s 23rd minute effort. The 2-0 defeat that Jeonbuk suffered on the Arabian peninsula has come back to hurt them and now the Saudis will take on Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the semi-finals.

The most sensational finish to a game in this round came in Qatar as Al Gharafa were able to pull back a three goal deficit from their first leg meeting with Saudi Arabians Al Hilal and take the game into extra-time. Al Gharafa were even able to take the lead for the first time in the tie after 102 minutes when Younes Mahmoud scored his second of the game to make it 4-3 on aggregate. From that point onwards the Qatari side tried to hold on to what they had but they were made to pay as Al Hilal scored two goals in the last three minutes of second half extra-time to provide a cruel twist to the game. Yasser Al Qahtani and Eysa Al Mehyani doing the damage late on to seal an amazing 5-4 aggregate win for the Riyadh-based side who now face Zob Ahan in the semi-finals.

AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2010 SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Al Shabab v Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma

Zob Ahan v Al Hilal

Matches to be played October 6th and 20th

The AFC Cup quarter-final second legs have also taken place in the last couple of days in what has been an exciting last eight stage of the competition. It was a mixed bag of results for teams from Thailand as the joy of progression for Muangthong United was countered by disappointment for Thai Port FC. Muangthong United overturned a 1-0 first leg deficit and came through to win the home leg 2-0 against Kuwaiti side Al Karamah to go through 2-1 on aggregate. Datsakorn Thonglao’s 28th minute strike was complimented ten minutes later by Dagno Siaka’s 38th minute penalty kick which gave the overall lead to Muangthong United who never relinquished it. Thai Port, on the other hand, began the day on level terms against Kuwaiti champions Al Qadsia but were to succumb to a 3-0 defeat in Kuwait City thanks to strikes from Hamad Al Enezi, Bader Al Mutwa and Abdulaziz Mashaan. Bahrain’s Al Riffa were involved in an eight goal battle with Vietnamese Da Nang for whom Sebastian Merlo hit a hat-trick in vain as his side went down to a 5-3 home defeat and 8-3 aggregate reverse. The final game of the quarter-finals saw Ittihad defeat Kazma by a solitary goal to nil in order to progress to the semi-finals. Ittihad won the first leg by three goals to two and it was Majed Humssi’s penalty goal six minutes before half-time that out them through.

AFC CUP 2010 SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Muangthong United v Al-Ittihad

Al-Riffa v Al-Qadsia

Matches to be played October 5th and 19th

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