It is quite unusual for any goalkeeper to score so much as one goal in his career, let alone one hundred of them. South American goalkeepers have, more often the not, been blessed with having great ability inbetween the posts and some have even been known to venture much further out in order to score goals. The likes of José Luis Chilavert, René Higuita and Jorge Campos were great keepers with a tendancy for goalscoring but none of them can come close to current São Paulo FC custodian Rogério Ceni. The Brazilian notched up his 100th goal in football this weekend in the Campeonato Paulista fixture between his club and arch-rivals Corinthians with his strike proving to be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory. Both teams are lying in the top three having played 16 of their 19 regular season games in the current state championship and are already through to the knockout rounds. Alas, that didn’t take any of the shine away from what was a beautifully struck free-kick from Ceni, who is the first goalkeeper ever to hit an historic century of goals.
New Zealand’s Auckland City will be the favourites going into the 2010-11 OFC Champions League after completing their Group B campaign with a 5-0 drubbing of AS Tefana today. In Group A defeat for Vanuatu’s Amicale FC proved academic as they still finished top of the standings in order to qualify for the final in their first ever tournament appearance.
Five different players got on the score sheet for Auckland City as they easily disposed of the weak challenge provided by French Polynesian side AS Tefana. Ivan Vicelich and Daniel Koprivcic got the goals as the Aucklanders went in 2-0 up at the break with Andrew Milne, Ian Hogg and Albert Vidal hitting the back of the net in the second half. Two-time champions Auckland finished six points ahead of compatriots Waitakere United who finished their campaign with a 2-1 win at home to AS Magenta. The side from New Caledonia took the lead after half an hour through Benjamin Longue only for Ryan de Vries to restore parity sixty seconds later. The winning goal for Waitakere came three minutes before full time thanks to Allan Pearce but the win was too little, too late for United who can now fully concentrate on defending their national title in the coming weeks.
Group A proved to be a much tighter affair with just four points separating league leaders Amicale FC from bottom placed Hekari United. The latter, who became the first team from outside Australia and New Zealand to win the title last year, have disappointed this time around and could only salvage a 1-1 draw from their final match at home to Fijians Lautoka FC with a late goal in second half stoppage time from Andrew Setefano rescuing a point after Peni Finau had given the visitors a 38th minute lead. Group winners Amicale FC could even afford to lose their final match of the group phase after Joses Nawo scored the only goal of the game in the 83rd minute for Solomon Islands representatives Koloale FC. Despite defeat Amicale FC finished top of the standings with ten points, one ahead of Koloale and two ahead of Lautoka FC with last season’s champions propping up the rest on six points.
The two legs of this year’s OFC Champions League final will be played on April 2nd & April 16th.
In much the same way as the UEFA Champions League draw that proceeded it, the UEFA Europa League draw was made in the Swiss town of Nyon today. Eight teams representing five different countries – Portugal (3 teams), Netherlands (2), Russia, Ukraine and Spain – still remain in the competition, determined to find out what lies ahead on the road to Dublin.
Once again it was an open draw with no country protection nor seedings to be taken into account and meant that rival clubs from individual nations could, in theory, be drawn to face each other.
The stand-out tie of the quarter-final stages is a repeat of the 1988 European Cup final between PSV Eindhoven and SL Benfica, a game which saw the Dutch side win the trophy for the first time on penalties following a goalless draw against the Portuguese giants. Amazingly, all of the three Portuguese clubs were kept apart in the draw but there is the possibility of Benfica meeting Liverpool FC’s conquerors Sporting Braga at the semi-final stage. Here is the full draw for the next two rounds of the UEFA Europa League:
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS
1. FC Porto v Spartak Moscow
2. SL Benfica v PSV Eindhoven
3. Villarreal CF v FC Twente Enschede
4. Sporting Braga v Dynamo Kyiv
First Legs: April 7; Second Legs: April 14
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS
5. Winners Match 4 v Winners Match 2
6. Winners Match 1 v Winners Match 3
First Legs: April 28; Second Legs: May 5
The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League has been made at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland this morning and, as usual, has not disappointed in terms of quality. England has the greater representation with three clubs remaining but clubs from Spain, Italy, Germany and Ukraine also harbour ambitions to lift “Old Big Ears” aloft in May.
The draw was completely open with no teams barred from facing each other as, unlike previous rounds, there was no country protection nor seedings to take into account. With Wembley Stadium edging ever closer, Stoppage Time – International Football Blog charts the route that the teams will have to take to get there.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER-FINAL DRAW
1. Chelsea FC v Manchester United
2. FC Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk
3. Internazionale FC v Schalke 04
4. Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur
First Legs: April 5/6; Second Legs: April 12/13
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL DRAW
5. Winners Match 3 v Winners Match 1
6. Winners Match 4 v Winners Match 2
First Legs: April 26/27; Second Legs: May 3/4
A new season of Major League Soccer begins on Tuesday and for defending champions Colorado Rapids it will prove to be a tough task keeping hold of their title. Two more teams have joined the league and there will be a longer Play-Off series after the regular season. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks ahead to the 2011 season.
Major League Soccer is growing all the time and this season is no different with two more franchises – Portland Timbers & Vancouver Whitecaps – jumping on board to increase the size of the league to 18 teams. Vancouver’s inclusion is a significant one as it increases the Canadian representation to two teams (along with Toronto FC) and paves the way for a Montreal franchise to join MLS in the 2012 season. As a result of the expansion there will be more regular season games (34) and a tougher play-off series with ten of the eighteen teams qualifying for the post-season MLS Cup.
The defending champions are Colorado Rapids who won the 2010 MLS Cup final on a rainy night in Toronto. The Rapids qualified for the play-offs having ‘only’ finished 5th in the Western Conference during the regular season but were one of the eight best records in the league as a whole. Having defeated Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes en route to the final, Colorado’s win over FC Dallas ensured that they became the third team in a row to win a maiden MLS Cup title following Columbus (2008) and Real Salt Lake (2009). Colorado now have the experience to win the title but their playing roster still isn’t as strong as some other teams so a title defence may prove beyond them.
The usual suspects will feature amongst the pre-season favourites for the championship. LA Galaxy, 2010 Supporters’ Shield winners by virtue of having the best regular season record, have featured prominently in the play-offs in the last couple of years but they still cannot go all the way despite having seasoned pros such as Landon Donovan and David Beckham in their ranks. New York Red Bulls, owned by the Austrian drinks manufacturer Red Bull, have a good chance of taking the crown if marquee players such as Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez can stay fit for most of the season. Real Salt Lake are the sole American representative in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals so there is a possibilty that they could start the season slowly as they try to rotate their squad between both competitions but will get stronger as the MLS season progresses.
Amongst the rest of the league arguably the potential dark-horse for a title challenge could be the Seattle Sounders. Now in their third full season as an MLS club, the Sounders have already experienced silverware having won the US Open Cup – America’s equivalent of the FA Cup – in each of the last two years and their experience in knockout football could bear some fruit if they make the MLS Cup play-offs this season. The club have been a great addition to the league in the short time since its inclusion. Seattle have recorded the highest attendances in each of the last two years and one wouldn’t begrudge their loyal fan base some further silverware this season.
Houston Dynamo, the last team to win back-to-back MLS Cup titles in 2006-07, have been moved over from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference in order to make space for the two new members of the league. Record champions DC United, four-times winners of American soccer’s greatest prize, have had a terrible time of it in the last few years compounded by the fact that they had the worst record in MLS last season and, sadly for them, it doesn’t seem that their luck will change anytime soon. New England Revolution, still under the stewardship of former Liverpool and Scotland player Steve Nicol, had an uneventful season in 2010 perhaps dispirited by a number of defeats in major cup finals in recent years. Philadelphia Union, last season’s expansion team, were some way off qualifying for the post-season last time so it will be interesting to see if they have spent well during the off-season.
The opening match of the new campaign takes place between Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy with a bumper crowd expected at the former’s QWest Stadium on Tuesday night. The first complete round of fixtures take place this weekend with a Canadian derby and the champions’ opening game amongst the highlights:
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER FIXTURES – MATCHDAY 1
15/03/11 Seattle Sounders v LA Galaxy
19/03/11 Vancouver Whitecaps v Toronto FC
DC United v Columbus Crew
New York Red Bulls v Seattle Sounders
Houston Dynamo v Philadelphia Union
FC Dallas v Chicago Fire
Colorado Rapids v Portland Timbers
Chivas USA v Sporting Kansas City
San Jose Earthquakes v Real Salt Lake
20/03/11: LA Galaxy v New England Revolution
After nearly 800 minutes without a goal in the Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt finally managed to hit the back of the net in Saturday’s game away at Schalke 04. Greek full-back Georgios Tzavellas’ hopeful punt from deep inside his own half was initially looking for his compatriot Theofanis Gekas in the Eintracht attack but the bounce of the ball wrong-footed Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer and the ball found its way into the goal from 73 metres to equalize the game at 1-1. Alas it would be another Greek who would deprive Eintracht of a much-needed point as Angelos Charisteas secured the three points for the home side in the 86th minute, thus adding to the pressure on Frankfurt coach Michael Skibbe.
Skibbe hasn’t always been the most popular figure with Frankfurt fans. Having succeeded Friedhelm Funkel at the start of the 2009-10 season he started off his tenure by taking away the captaincy from fans’ favourite Ioannis Amanatidis. But he hasn’t always been popular with the upper echelons of the club’s staff either; last season Skibbe consistently questioned the future direction and ambition of the club which led many pundits to believe that he wouldn’t see out the season as club coach. After talks with the club chairman Heribert Bruchhagen, Skibbe made peace with the Powers-That-Be and led the team to an respectable 10th place.
At the start of the current campaign Skibbe boasted that his team should be aiming to finish the 2010-11 season on 50 points, four more than the club achieved last term, and perhaps look towards fighting for European club competition. After a dreadful start to the season which saw the club lose four of its first five matches, Eintracht recovered to win seven out of the next twelve including a 1-0 home victory against runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 17. This left the club with 26 points and lying in seventh place in the table at the halfway stage and it seemed that Skibbe’s pre-season points prediction was back on course.
But Eintracht is never an easy club to predict, which is why many of its followers refer to it as “The Moody Diva”. Just when the club appears to doing something right you can (almost) always guarantee that something will go wrong. After the winter break Skibbe went on a collision course with Amanatidis, dropping him from the squad altogether, before the adverse fan reaction and subsequent meeting with Bruchhagen forced him to do a U-turn. In the meantime the club had lost the knack of goalscoring. Theofanis Gekas, who was the Bundesliga’s second highest scorer after Matchday 17 with 14 goals, hasn’t hit the back of the net since but then that’s not totally his fault as the rest of the team hadn’t seen the back of the net either before Tzavellas’ freak goal on Saturday. Whereas last season many of Eintracht’s goals came from midfield players such as Alexander Meier (10), Benjamin Koehler (4), and Caio (4) now there is a drought coming from all areas of the field which has led to the side going 794 minutes without a goal. It says much about the side and its lack of confidence at the moment that the only way it could eventually find the back of the net was not from a shot inside their opponent’s penalty box but from a defensive clearance!!
For many Michael Skibbe has run out of ideas and is looking increasingly isolated in a way which has already affected other coaches at more successful teams in the league such as FC Bayern’s Louis Van Gaal, Hamburger SV coach Armin Veh (who was sacked following their 6-0 defeat to FC Bayern on Saturday) or, ironically, Schalke 04 coach Felix Magath who’s future is in doubt despite reaching the German Cup final and the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. What’s worse for Eintracht is that clubs they finished higher than in the 2009-10 season such as Hannover 96, 1.FC Nuernberg and SC Freiburg are in the midst of successful seasons and are all challenging for Europe with each team lying in 3rd, 6th and 7th places respectively.
Eintracht, on the other hand, have dropped to 15th place and are only above St. Pauli on goal difference before this weekend’s crucial home game against the Hamburg based club. For Skibbe it could well be his last chance to salvage his job and the club’s season, assuming he hasn’t already been sacked by then……………..
The big two of New Zealand football, Waitakere United and Auckland City, look like renewing their rivalry in the final of the 2010-11 ASB Premiership after both teams recorded wins in the semi-final first legs.
Defending champions Waitakere United faced off against Canterbury United at the former’s Fred Taylor Park stadium in a repeat of last season’s Grand Final and once Ryan de Vries gave the home side the lead after six minutes there was no looking back for the title holders. Dakota Lucas doubled the lead on nine minutes with Aaron Scott scoring the third after twelve minutes. Three minutes later De Vries bagged his second of the game to leave Waitakere United with a 4-0 lead after quarter of an hour. The game was over almost as soon as it had begun but the home side didn’t take their foot off the gas as Dakota Lucas scored his second of the game five minutes before half-time.
In the second half Waitakere were able to add one more goal to their tally when Allan Pearce got the sixth goal of the game on the hour mark. Canterbury United were stunned but were eventually able to compose themselves and gained their reward in the last ten minutes of the game with Nick Wortelboer and Tom Schwarz getting on the score sheet to leave the game with a much more respectable 6-2 defeat.
Auckland City will have high hopes of qualifying for the Grand Final once more after winning their semi-final, first leg tie away at Team Wellington. The game was keenly contested and remained tight until the 78th minute when Luis Corrales finally broke the deadlock for the visitors. Manuel Exposito scored in stoppage time at the end of the game to seal a 2-0 win for Auckland City who will host next week’s second leg and now seem almost certain to qualify for their domestic championship final as well as that of the OFC Champions League. Waitakere United’s semi-final, second leg match will be played on Sunday, April 3rd but the venue has yet to be confirmed as Canterbury United’s home ground is unfit for use following the devastating earthquake which affected the city earlier this year.
As a Knight of the Realm once famously uttered, “football. Bloody hell!” One could be forgiven for thinking the same thing after watching the climax to the 2010-11 Hyundai A-League campaign. Central Coast Mariners, who had already lost in two previous Grand Finals, were just four minutes away from making it third time lucky after enjoying a 2-0 lead in extra-time only to see Brisbane Roar come back from the dead to take the game into a penalty shoot-out in which they claimed their maiden championship.
A capacity crowd of 50,000 were at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to see a clash between the top two teams in this season’s Hyundai A-League fight it out for the title. Brisbane Roar had lost just one game all season and were determined not to let their home supporters down when it mattered most. Central Coast, after being defeated once already by Brisbane in the Play-Offs, were hoping that lightening wouldn’t strike twice and it was perhaps no surprise that the ninety minutes of normal time ended in a stalemate despite each team enjoying at least one period of sustained attacking pressure on their opponents. However the game would really come alive once it re-started for the extra-time period and when Central Coast went ahead through Adam Kwasnik on 96 minutes the visitors were in total control. Oliver Bozanic doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time and it looked like the home side had blown their big chance to cap a truly wonderful season.
But the Regular Season table-toppers were made of tougher stuff and showed the spirit of true champions with two goals in the last four minutes of extra-time. Brazilian crowd favourite Henrique pulled a goal back in the 117th minute when his shot from the edge of the box was too hot for Mariners keeper Matthew Ryan to handle. Then, with the very last opportunity of the game, a corner was whipped across the face of goal and was headed home by Erik Paartalu. The tide had turned dramatically and so the match went to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out. Both sides were 100% successful with their first two spot kicks but it would be Central Coast who would miss first after Daniel McBreen’s kick was saved by Roar keeper Michael Theoklitos. After Daniel McKay gave the Roar a 3-2 lead it was Theoklitos’ turn to be the hero once more when stopping Pedja Bojić’s penalty. This allowed Henrique to steer home the winning penalty and seal a 4-2 shoot-out victory for Brisbane who can now add the Grand Final trophy to the Premiership which was won last month to become the third different club, along with Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, to do the domestic double.
The Russian Premier League kicks off this weekend with a prolonged season in store. The league has decided to switch to a more conventional autumn-spring season, as used in most other major European leagues, and will see the 2011-12 campaign last for a much longer than usual eighteen months before reverting back to the usual nine month season from 2012-13.
Zenit Saint Petersburg are the defending champions having dominated the 2010 campaign which they led for all but one round of matches. Coach Luciano Spalletti has resisted the overtures of major European clubs and will lead Zenit for a second campaign and his team remain favourites to win consecutive league titles. Their main challengers are expected to come from Rubin Kazan, back-to-back champions in 2008 and 2009, as well as the traditional powerhouses of CSKA and Spartak Moscow. One team who could also throw their weight behind a title challenge is Dynamo Moscow with a squad including players of experience such as Andriy Voronin, Kevin Kuranyi and Zvjezdan Misimović. The championship trophy hasn’t been lifted by a capital side since 2006 and for the success starved Moscovites it is imperative that the clubs can, at the very least, push the champions all the way this time around.
There has also been some interesting developments lower down the pecking order with clubs such as Terek Grozny and Anzhi Makhachkala showing their ambitious streak by making some unexpected signings. Terek, the flag-bearers of the Chechnya region, have brought in Dutch legend Ruud Gullit to manage the club whilst Anzhi, who hail from the southern province of Dagestan, have added to their playing roster by signing veteran Brazilian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos in what has been heralded as a major coup for the club. Sadly things haven’t been so kind to FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast who had to forfeit their place in the RPL due to going bankrupt and Amkar Perm have only recently given assurances about their finances in order to continue their participation.
Amongst the newly-promoted clubs last season’s First Division (2nd tier) champions FK Kuban Krasnodar, coached by former Romanian international Dan Petrescu, are joined by local rivals FK Krasnodar and FK Volga from Russia’s fourth largest city Nizhny Novgorod. All three clubs have made major changes to their squads bringing in dozens of new players in the hope that they can last in what should be a long, arduous campaign. All sixteen teams play their opponents on a round-robin, home and away basis with the first stage of the league completed after thirty games. Following this the league will split into two – a Championship Group (used to determine the championship and UEFA club qualification) and a Relegation Group (to sort out which three teams will go down at the end of the season). After the completion of the second stage each team will have played 44 matches and it will certainly be the case that whoever comes out on top will have earned it the hard way.
MATCHDAY 1 FIXTURES
Anzhi Makhachkala v FK Krasnodar
Spartak Nalchik v Krylia Sovetov Samara
Lokomotive Moscow v Dynamo Moscow
FK Kuban Krasnodar v Rubin Kazan
CSKA Moscow v Amkar Perm
Terek Grozny v Zenit Saint Petersburg
FK Volga Nizhny Novgorod v Tom Tomsk
FK Rostov v Spartak Moscow
The Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League, has seen most of the teams reach the halfway point in the group stages. With a significant proportion of Matchday 3 completed with the remaining ties to be played next week Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest events in the competition so far.
Junior FC, from the Colombian city of Barranquilla, are the only team with a 100% record after three games. They have enjoyed wins against each of their Group 2 opponents, namely Gremio Porto Alegre, Leon de Huanuco and Oriente Petrolero, and have a great chance to be one of the first qualifiers for the knockout stages. Paraguayans Club Libertad and Cerro Porteno hold the leadership in their respective groups following a good week for the Asuncion-based sides. Libertad top Group 1 following a 5-1 win over previous leaders Universidad San Martin whilst Cerro Porteno’s 1-1 draw against Venezuelans Deportivo Tachira means that they have a two point lead over Chilean record champions Colo Colo who have a game in hand.
There are mixed fortunes for the Argentine contingent in this competition with only two of the nation’s five representatives topping their group. Argentinos Juniors lead the way in Group 3 after a 1-0 win away at three-time former champions Nacional Montevideo. Group 8 saw an Argentine derby on Thursday night with Godoy Cruz defeating Copa Sudamericana holders Independiente 3-1 to ensure that the former goes top of the standings and the latter remains rooted at the bottom. Estudiantes de La Plata, winners of the competition in 2009, lie second behind Cruzeiro in Group 7 following a 2-1 win at Paraguayan side Guarani. Things haven’t gone so well for 1994 champions Velez Sarsfield as they lost 2-1 to Chileans Union Espanola and remain fourth in Group 4 which is currently topped by Venezuelan champions FC Caracas who have won two of their three games, most recently against second place Universidad Catolica on Wednesday.
Brazilian teams are also enjoying mixed fortunes with Cruzeiro impressing so far in Group 7 although their winning start was halted this week thanks to a goalless draw away at Deportes Tolima in Colombia. Defending champions Internacional didn’t play this week but remain in second place and can go back on top with a win over Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann next Wednesday. Santos FC also didn’t play this week but can go top of Group 5 if they overcome the challenge of Colo Colo on Wednesday. Fluminense are struggling in Group 3 lying in third place, five points adrift of leaders Argentinos Juniors.