Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

CONCACAF: Monterrey claim maiden Champions title (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 29, 2011

North and Central America hails a new champion team and it is to nobody’s surprise that the team comes from Mexico. Monterrey CF have claimed the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time after a 3-2 aggregate win over Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake. After the first leg finished 2-2 in Mexico seven days earlier, this Wednesday saw an expectant 20,000 crowd at the Rio Tinto Stadium hoping to see Salt Lake claim a first Champions League title for an American side under the current format. However the visitors had other ideas and a tight contest was decided by a Humberto Suzao goal on the stroke of half-time. The 1-0 win saw the Mexicans home and they follow Atlante CF and Pachuca CF onto the roll of honour as the only clubs to have won this tournament since its rebranding in 2008.

Canada: Toronto favourites to win Voyageurs Cup title

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 26, 2011
Voyageurs Cup

Toronto FC currently hold the Voyageurs Cup

The Nutrilite Canadian Championship kicks off on Wednesday with defending champions Toronto FC favourites to hold on to their title. The format of the tournament has changed from a round-robin involving three teams to a straight knockout format involving four thanks to the inclusion of FC Edmonton alongside traditional entrants Toronto, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact.

Major League Soccer (MLS) club Toronto FC, currently led by former Dutch international Aron Winter, are the defending Canadian champions having won back-to-back Voyageurs Cups in 2009 and 2010. They will face tournament new boys FC Edmonton in the semi-final and will be overwhelming favourites to reach the final given their considerable experience. FC Edmonton, who were formed only last year, have started life in America’s second-tier football competition, the North American Soccer League (NASL), rather well in 2011 having won two of their first three games and will have no pressure going into their maiden domestic championship campaign.

In the other semi-final Montreal Impact, inaugural winners of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship in 2008, are another NASL team facing off against a more-fancied MLS outfit, namely Vancouver Whitecaps. However this will not be the case beyond this year as Montreal have been given clearance to become the newest member of MLS in 2012. Nonetheless this tie will still interest many due to the current standards of both set-ups. Montreal are winless after three games in the 2011 NASL season whilst Vancouver may only have won just one match out of their first seven in their maiden MLS campaign but that came against fellow Canadians Toronto FC.

Should the two MLS sides qualify for the final, as many pundits expect, then it would be fascinating to see whether Vancouver would hold the Indian sign over Toronto. Would Toronto’s 2011 MLS season opening match blip at the hands of their compatriots be the prime motivation for a spot of revenge? Or can any of the NASL teams upset the big boys and reach the final?

2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALS (seedings in brackets)

27/04/11 Montreal Impact (3) v Vancouver Whitecaps (2)

27/04/11 FC Edmonton (4) v Toronto FC (1)

04/05/11 Vancouver Whitecaps v Montreal Impact

04/05/11 Toronto FC v FC Edmonton

2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL (Highest seed away in first leg)

18/05/11 – First Leg

25/05/11 – Second Leg

Brazil: 2011 State championships reaching business end (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on April 25, 2011

Brazilian football’s various state championships are in the business end of the year’s campaigns. In Rio de Janeiro Flamengo have the chance next weekend to win the Taça Rio title against old foes Vasco da Gama. In São Paulo’s Paulista State championship the big four of the city have all reached the semi-finals of the tournament whilst in the Mineiro state championship it’s far from surprising to see Cruzeiro and Atlético Mineiro almost certain to compete in yet another final whilst similarly in Rio Grande do Sul eternal enemies Internacional and Grêmio are set to do battle in this year’s Campeonato Gaúcho.

This year’s Taça Rio, the second of the Campeonato Carioca’s two tournaments, will feature Flamengo and Vasco da Gama in the final. The former got the better of Fluminense thanks to a penalty shoot-out win after the game had finished 1-1. Vasco, on the other hand, got the better of their opponents without the need for spot-kicks thanks to  a 1-0 win over Olaria AC, thus setting up a meeting with their biggest rivals. Should Flamengo win the Taça Rio, the final of which takes place on 1st May, then they will seal their 32nd Carioca championship win, their fourth in five years, without having to play an overall final. Should Vasco win the Taça Rio then there will be another two-legged contest on May 8th and 15th to see who claims the overall prize.

WATCH FLAMENGO v FLUMINENSE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

In the Paulista championship traditional city heavyweights Santos FC, São Paulo FC, Palmeiras and Corinthians have made it to the semi-finals following the first knockout round this weekend. Palmeiras and Corinthians both recorded 2-1 victories in their quarter-final ties against Mirassol and Oeste respectively and will face each other in the first semi-final. Defending Paulista champions Santos FC will face-off against São Paulo FC in the second semi-final after they defeated Ponte Preta (1-0) and Portuguesa (2-0) respectively.

The Campeonato Mineiro sees yet another final between Cruzeiro and Atlético Mineiro following both teams’ semi-final victories this weekend. Atlético, who currently have five more title wins than Cruzeiro in this competition, defeated América FC 3-1 in the semi-final, first leg. Cruzeiro, meanwhile, have as good as secured their place in the final with an 8-1 first leg win over América Teófilo Otoni and will fancy their chances of winning a sixth state title in nine years.

The Campeonato Gaúcho final will see Grêmio and Internacional meet once more for state honours. Defending champions Grêmio saw off the challenge of Cruzeiro RS in a closely fought contest 3-2 while Internacional were also involved in a tight battle eventually settling for a 2-1 victory against Juventude. Internacional hope to extend their record number of titles in this tournament to 40 whilst Grêmio hope to catch up further with a 37th championship.

WATCH CRUZEIRO RS v GREMIO HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Japan: J-League resumes following tragic period

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on April 25, 2011

J-League logoThe Japanese J-League has resumed some seven weeks following the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami which hit the country in early March. Some Japanese clubs have had to keep playing football in the AFC Champions League competition but the domestic season had been halted until this weekend.

With only two matches played so far the only team with a 100% record is Kashiwa Reysol who followed up their opening day win over Shimuzu S-Pulse with victory over Omiya Ardija on Saturday with Brazilian striker Barbosa getting the only goal of the game in the 55th minute. Champions Nagoya Grampus Eight have struggled early on with just one point from their opening two games. They were defeated 3-0 away at Urawa Red Diamonds on Sunday and means that only newly promoted Avispa Fukuoka have a worse record. Having finished third in Division 2 last seaso, Avispa have lost their opening two matches to Albirex Niigata and Shimuzu S-Pulse.

Amongst the traditional heavyweights of the league Kashima Antlers, who won three consecutive titles from 2008-10, have also struggled to get going suffering a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Yokohama Marinos on Saturday. Gamba Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale have had mixed results so far with both winning one and losing one of their games. Both teams, who won their opening fixtures, suffered defeat on matchday 2 with Osaka going down 4-1 at the hands of Sanfreece Hiroshima whilst Kawasaki lost out 2-1 at home to Vegalta Sendai.

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South America: Nine former winners remaining in Libertadores

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on April 21, 2011
Wallyson

Cruzeiro striker Wallyson was crucial to his sides progress to the next round

After a marathon group phase of the competition the Round of 16 draw for the 2011 Copa Santander de Libertadores is now complete. The line-up sees nine former champions of the tournament feature with six of them facing-off in the next round.

Defending champions SC Internacional Porto Alegre, winners of Group 6, meet Uruguayan six-time winners CA Peñarol who scraped second place in the tighest group of all. Group 10 was topped by LDU Quito who squeezed past Peñarol by one point and who were two and three ahead of Argentine clubs Independiente and Godoy Cruz respectively, both of whom narrowly miss out on the knockout stages. LDU, champions in 2008, meet another one-time former champion in Vélez Sársfield with both teams in great form on the domestic stage (both are top of their national leagues) and hoping to compliment that with international honours. The final game involving former winners will see Brazilians Cruzeiro, clear winners of Group 7, face Group 1 runners up Once Caldas with the Colombian side underdogs going into their Round of 16 match-up.

Rafael Sobis

Rafael Sobis scores for champions Internacional

Other group winners were Paraguayans Libertad (Group 1), Colombian outsiders Junior Barranquilla (2), Mexicans CF América (3), Chilean champions Universidad Católica (4) and Paraguayans Cerro Porteño (5). Those clubs will face tough challenges in the Round of 16 against Brazilian champions Fluminense, Mexican outfit Jaguares, two-time Libertadores winners Santos FC, Brazilians Grêmio Porto Alegre and 2009 champions Estudiantes de La Plata respectively. The Round of 16 matches will be played on April 26-28 (first leg) and May 3-5 (second leg).

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Spain: Ramos drops Copa del Rey in bizarre incident (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 21, 2011

The celebrations were in full swing in the Spanish capital city of Madrid after Wednesday saw los Blancos lift the first domestic trophy of the season and win their first Copa del Rey (Spanish King’s Cup) title since 1993. Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s extra-time winner over arch-rivals FC Barcelona, the parties on the streets were still going on at 4:00am with the players on top of the parade bus taking part in their own celebrations. Madrid’s Sergio Ramos held the cup for all to see above his head but his team-mates’ over exuberant celebrations forced him to drop the cup from the top of the bus down to in front of the wheels below. The cup was run over and damaged but the player said afterwards that the trophy was fine.

Europe: Latvian clubs lead the way in Baltic League

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 21, 2011

Triobet Baltic League logoWith the quarter-final stages of the 2010-11 Triobet Baltic League completed the usual suspects from Latvia continue to dominate the competition. Each of the big three – Skonto Riga, Liepājas Metalurgs and defending champions FK Ventspils – have qualified for the semi-finals with just one lone team from Lithuania, FK Šiauliai, keeping them company. Both Estonian representatives left remaining at the last eight stage, Tallinn sides Flora and Levadia, both went out.

FK Ventspils remain favourites to lift back-to-back Baltic titles after they easily dismissed the challenge of Estonian champions Flora Tallinn by a 5-0 aggregate scoreline. Vladimirs Bespalovs scored the only goal of the first leg whilst Ahmed Abdultaofik, Jevgēnijs Kosmačovs, Eduards Višņakovs and Olegs Zatkins grabbed one apiece in the four goal rout in the return fixture. They will face FK Šiauliai after the Lithuanians went through thanks to a solitary strike from Edvinas Jasaitis in the very first minute of the second leg to ensure a 1-0 aggregate win.

The other semi-final will see old rivals Skonto Riga and Liepājas Metalurgs go head-to-head for the second season in succession. A match between the champions of Latvia and Lithuania saw Skonto pip an exciting game against FK Ekranas with two goals in the last ten minutes of the second leg helping the Latvians to a 4-2 aggregate success. Metalurgs, on the other hand, had things a little easier in an all-Latvian affair against FK Jūrmala-VV with Vladimirs Kamešs and Jevgēņijs Golovins each bagging a brace in a 6-2 aggregate win.

The semi-finals see FK Šiauliai and Skonto FC enjoy home advantage in the first legs to be played May 3rd/4th whilst former champions Liepājas Metalurgs and current title holders FK Ventspils playing host to the return legs three weeks later on May 24/25.

WATCH FK VENTSPILS’ SECOND LEG GOALS HERE:

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CONCACAF: Monterrey and Salt Lake still level after first leg

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 21, 2011

The first leg of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League final saw Monterrey CF and Real Salt Lake draw an exciting match by two goals each. The Mexican side are hoping to make it yet another triumph for the country whose clubs have won each of the last six tournaments whilst Major League Soccer outfit Real are hoping to put the league back on the map and become the first team from the United States to win this competition since a pre-Beckham Los Angeles Galaxy achieved the feat back in 2000. Goals by Aldo de Nigris and Humberto Suazo for Monterrey were cancelled out on each occasion by Nat Borchers and Javier Morales. The second leg of the final takes place in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 27th.

WATCH FIRST LEG GOALS & HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Away Days: RKC Waalwijk v SC Cambuur Leeuwarden

Posted in Away Days by peterbein on April 19, 2011

Two down, one to go. After what had already been a very productive weekend the final leg of the Benelux journey took us another 296km firstly to Breda, the town where we would stay the night, and secondly on to Waalwijk for an early Sunday afternoon kick-off. The Dutch Jupiler League is the country’s second tier of football (not to be confused with the Belgian top-tier championship of the same name). For the home team, who were relegated from the top-flight last season, dreams of an imminent return to the Eredivisie heightened as a result of this match.

We arrived at the Mandemakers Stadion basking in the sunshine and still slightly worse for wear following a good night on the beer some hours earlier. With the mileage of the trip starting to take its toll on all of us the early kick-off at least ensured that we had to be in some way fit for the Sunday ahead. Nonetheless we had all agreed before the weekend that we expected this game to have the most quality on the pitch and we weren’t wrong. RKC Waalwijk, a club whose initials let you know of the club’s Roman Catholic roots, have spent most of the last twenty years in the top flight and expect to come straight back up whenever they go down. CS Cambuur, their visitors from the town of Leeuwarden, are a club of more modest targets and last tasted Eredivisie football over a decade ago but still went into the game knowing that they had a chance of qualifying for the promotion play-offs.

The game kicked off to a colourful banner from the home support and they had something to shout about just eleven minutes when Robert Braber gave RKC the lead following a defensive error. Twenty minutes later Ghanaian forward Fred Benson doubled the home side’s lead following a move which one could politely describe as route one. RKC Waalwijk were coasting the game and the modest away support of SC Cambuur – all 26 of them (I counted them at half-time) – had to suffer further in the second half as Benson grabbed his second of the game in the 53rd minute from the penalty spot. Donny de Groot bagged the fourth of the game for the home side in the 90th minute but SC Cambuur, who were a distant second best in the match, could at least celebrate a consolation strike from Kevin Diaz in stoppage time.

The game finished 4-1 to RKC Waalwijk much to the joy of the home support who knew that their team had accumulated the most number of points in the fourth period of the season and, at the very least, guarantee play-off football if not automatic promotion. FC Zwolle stand between RKC and first in the standings with the two teams due to fight it out next week but for now there was something to celebrate as the Waalwijk players reached for the champagne at the end of the match. As for myself and my fellow Eintrachtler our Groundhopping tour was now officially over and we headed back to Breda for a much deserved beer or ten. After all, having witnessed fourteen goals in three games spread throughout three countries in three days we were just as worthy of alcohol as any of the footballers we’d seen.

WATCH RKC WAALWIJK v SC CAMBUUR HIGHLIGHTS

Away Days: F91 Dudelange v CS Grevenmacher

Posted in Away Days by peterbein on April 19, 2011

Following the previous night’s events in Belgium, me and the boys drove a further 230km to Luxembourg City. After dropping our bags off in our hostel we then set about going the extra 19km to the town of Dudelange, home to F91.

The club, known in the local Luxembourgish language as Diddeleng, are a growing power in the country having won six out of the last seven titles with only record champions Jeunesse d’Esch having broken the spell in 2009-10. Dudelange, created by a merger of three teams in 1991, had already claimed the 2010-11 championship trophy prior to this weekend’s game but we still hoped that the champions would put on a show for us. CS Grevenmacher, their opponents and former one-time champion in 2002-03, naturally had other ideas although their league position of ninth place (out of 14), a distant 23 points behind their opponents, suggested that such thoughts would be optimistic.

On the way to the game we met a lone German Groundhopper by the name of Klaus whose alleged devotion to the cause of Bayern Munich most certainly irritated each and every one of us, all of whom are Eintracht Frankfurt supporters and very much against the sort of plastic, over-commercialized pap with which clubs such as the Bavarian giants are renowned. Despite his choice of favoured club Klaus remained with us until the end of what was a half-hearted match. Not surprising given that the F91 “Ultras” section consisted of just three fans and two banners in arguably the most modest attempt of a fan culture that I have personally come across thus far in my time watching football. If the home team’s fans could hardly be bothered to make an effort then it was no surprise to see that feeling transfer to the players.

The home side included one of the league’s top scorers in Daniel da Mota, a naturalized Portuguese who had scored 16 league goals this season leading up to the game and was everybody’s “Man to Watch” before the game began. Ultimately he may as well have been sitting with us in the stands as he was practically a spectator throughout the match. The game saw one goal in the first half with Daniel Huss outpacing the F91 defence to put visiting Gravenmacher into the lead. The game would be settled as a contest after the break with goals from Rhalid Benachou and Samir Louadj, the latter of which was a beautifully taken volley into the top left-hand corner, helping Grevenmacher to a morale boosting 3-0 away victory and depriving the home side any chance of a KSK Heist style comeback. The victory helped Grevenmacher remain in ninth position just behind CS Petange on goal difference and with only four games of the league season remaining and just five points separating them from second placed FC Differdange 03 could this game prove the spark for a potential European tour next season?

Speaking of European tours there was still one more game left on our itinerary. It was now on to Holland for the final leg of the Benelux weekend………

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