Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Latvia: Skonto big winners as Metalurgs beat Ventspils (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 22, 2010

The Latvian Vīrsliga took another interesting twist in the championship race today as Skonto Riga now enjoy a five point lead over their nearest title rivals FK Ventspils. After Skonto had put a dent into Liepājas Metalurgs’ title ambitions last week it was to be Skonto, Latvia’s most successful club, who would be celebrating again after this weekend’s round of games went very much in their favour. Early Sunday afternoon saw Metalurgs, the defending champions, start the day in fourth place after FC Daugava’s 1-0 win over FK Jaunība Riga saw the team from Latvia’s second city of Daugavpils leapfrog Metalurgs. If the champions were to regain any title ambitions they had to beat FK Ventspils away from home in the game known as the “Derby of Kurzeme”, named after the region home to the two cities on Latvia’s Baltic coast.

The game started off nervously but there were a few chances for either side but for the first fourty five minutes neither side had their shooting boots on and the game remained goalless at the break. The second half was a different game altogether with the champions going two goals up by the 53rd minute mark thanks to strikes from Kristaps Grebis and Takafumi Akahoshi. The home side won a penalty kick with just a quarter of an hour remaining and Jurijs Žigajevs halved the deficit from the spot but this didn’t deter Metalurgs from attacking their hosts and the game was sealed with another goal for Grebis in the 77th minute and the game was put to bed by Jurģis Kalns sixty seconds into stoppage time. There was still enough time for Žigajevs to score his second of the game for FK Ventspils but by then the damage was done and the champions had got their season back on track.

WATCH FK VENTSPILS v LIEPAJAS METALURGS HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

This result meant that Skonto Riga could increase their lead in the standings with a win over SK Blāzma Rēzekne and Alexandrs Starkovs’ men would do that in fine style. Brazilian Nathan Junior has been amongst the goals this season and he bagged a brace to give Skonto a two goal lead after 24 minutes and the lead would be increased two minutes later by Andrejs Perepļotkins to give the capital club a 3-0 lead at the break. In the second half Aleksandrs Cauņa made it 4-0 just two minutes after the restart and he would score his second of the game on 79 minutes. The final goal of the game came from Alans Siņeļņikovs with five minutes to go and it capped an easy day’s work for Skonto who now look forward to two difficult games against fourth place FC Daugava and second place FK Ventspils on Matchdays 17 and 18 respectively. After Matchday 18 the final lap of fixtures (i.e. Matchdays 19-27) for each club will be determined in accordance with league placings. At the moment Skonto lead the table with 43 points from 16 games, FK Ventspils have 38 points whilst Metalurgs are a further five points behind. FC Daugava in fourth place have 32 points and are serious about challenging for a place in the UEFA Europa League next season especially as their win over FK Jaunība on Saturday was the club’s sixth win in seven games. At the bottom things remain tight as only five points separate Latvian Cup winners FK Jelgava in sixth place (16 games, 15 points) from FK Jaunība at the bottom in tenth spot.   

Super Cup: Barça and Inter secure the honours (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 21, 2010

The last two winners of the UEFA Champions League have secured the first silverware of their respective domestic seasons tonight. The second leg of the Spanish Super Cup was played in the Camp Nou as La Liga champions FC Barcelona tried to overturn a 3-1 first leg defeat at the hands of Copa del Rey winners Sevilla FC. At the same time in Milan defending Serie A champions Internazionale FC, fresh from their historic treble-winning season under former coach José Mourinho, played against last season’s league and cup runners-up AS Roma and the Nerazzurri were hoping to give The Special One’s replacement Rafael Benítez a winning start to life in Milan.

After playing a weakened side in the first leg seven days ago, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola decided to bring back some of his established stars back into the fold in the hope that the Catalan giants could begin the 2010-11 season with the first piece of domestic silverware and, thus, put down a marker for the rest of the season. After the Andalucians of Sevilla CF had won the first game 3-1 at home Barça pulled a goal back early in the second leg after Sevilla’s Abdoulay Konko put through his own net after fourteen minutes. From then on the game would turn into the Lionel Messi show. After a disappointing FIFA World Cup campaign which saw his Argentina team get knocked out so convincingly by Germany, Messi would carry on where he left off in the Blaugrana shirt with two goals in the 25th and 44th minutes which would give Barcelona the lead on the night and on aggregate by half-time. The second half saw both chances for both sides and there was a possibility that Sevilla CF could get a late goal and make things nervous again for the home side. However it was Messi who would seal the deal by securing his hat-trick strike in stoppage time to give Barcelona a 4-0 win on the night, 5-3 on aggregate. The success saw Barcelona win their ninth Super Cup title, one ahead of eternal rivals Real Madrid CF.

WATCH SPANISH SUPER CUP 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

New Internazionale coach Rafael Benítez began his tenure in the same fashion that his predecessor José Mourinho did by winning the Italian Super Cup against AS Roma in the San Siro stadium. Inter’s opponents stunned the home support when John Arne Riise gave the Giallorossi the lead on 21 minutes but ultimately it was the treble champions who would take charge in the fourth Super Cup match between these two teams in the last five years. Goran Pandev made it 1-1, capitalizing on some really poor AS Roma defending, with just three minutes of the first half remaining and then Samuel Eto’o would do the damage for the Nerazzurri in the second half by scoring two close-range efforts in the 70th and 80th minutes. The win secured Inter’s fifth Italian Super Cup title which draws them level with city rivals AC Milan at the top of the all-time list of wins in this tournament. It was also Internazionale’s fourth trophy in 2010 as they hope to emulate FC Barcelona by winning every available piece of silverware in the same calendar year. The fifth leg of a possible sextuple is the European Super Cup match in Monaco where they meet UEFA Europa League winners Atlético de Madrid on Friday, August 27th. Read Stoppage Time – International Football Blog this week for a full preview of this prestigious clash.

WATCH ITALIAN SUPER CUP HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Baltic League: Draw for 2010-11 tournament held in Riga

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 20, 2010
FK Ventspils

FK Ventspils celebrate their 2009-10 Triobet Baltic League triumph. Who will win the competition in 2010-11?

The draw for the 2010-11 Triobet Baltic League, the cross-border competition for the top sixteen teams in the Baltic States, was held today in the Olympic Centre in the Latvian capital of Riga. The composition of the draw was five teams each from Lithuania and Estonia whilst Latvia has six teams as one of their representatives, FK Ventspils, won last season’s tournament and thus get the extra berth as a reward. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reveals the draw for the first round, the first leg takes place from September 21-22 and the second leg from October 26-27:

Banga (LT) v L. Metalurgs (LV)

FC Jurmala-VV (LV) v JK Sillamäe Kalev (EST)

JFK Olimps/RFS (LV) v Ekranas (LT)

Tauras (LT) v Skonto FC (LV)

JK Nõmme Kalju (EST) v FK Ventspils (LV)

FC Flora Tallinn (EST) v FK Suduva (LT)

SK Blazma Rezekne (LV) v FC Levadia Tallinn (EST)

JK Narva Trans (EST) v Šiauliai (LT)

CONCACAF: Toronto defeat Cruz Azul; Matchday 1 Review (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on August 20, 2010

Sixteen teams holding dreams of continental glory saw the group phase of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League kick off this week. Arguably the biggest result was Toronto FC’s 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul whose dreams of a third successive Champions League final have been dented a little by the Canadian champions. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews this and all the other seven games on Matchday 1 of this season’s competition.

It has been a pretty good couple of years for Toronto FC. As well as winning the Canadian Championship in the last two years they have been admitted into the American Major League Soccer (MLS) Championship as an expansion team and now are competing in their maiden CONCACAF Champions League campaign after disposing of Honduran side Club Deportivo Motagua in the qualifying round. Their Group A match against Cruz Azul was the highlight of the round especially as the Canadians kept up their unbeaten home record this season. They had a dream start thanks to Martin Šarić’s close-range header and it got better just a minute before the interval as Mista’s shot from the edge of the box was too hot for keeper Yosgart Gutiérrez. The Mexicans did have chances in the second half but were only able to pull one back in the dying minutes of the game when a free-kick from Christian Giménez gave Cruz Azul some hope but it proved to be too little, too late. Toronto FC start off with a win whilst the other Group A clash saw Americans Real Salt Lake leave it late to secure victory at home to Panama’s Clausura champions Arabe Unido. After the visitors had taken an early lead through Armando Cooper, Real had their Costa Rican striker Álvaro Saborío to thank for scoring stoppage time goals in each half to grind out a 2-1 victory for the MLS champions.

WATCH TORONTO FC v CRUZ AZUL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Group B saw the two favourites to win the group gain three points in their opening matches. Mexicans Santos Laguna got the better of Trinidad & Tobago representatives Joe Public FC winning 5-2 away from home with José Maria Cárdenas scoring four times. Emmanuel Ekpo’s 14th minute strike proved just enough for MLS side Columbus Crew in their home tie against Guatemalan Clausura champions CSD Municipal. This makes the imminent clash between Santos Laguna and Columbus Crew, which takes place on Matchday 2, one of the ties of the round with both teams determined to keep their 100% record intact.

WATCH JOE PUBLIC FC v SANTOS LAGUNA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Mexicans CF Monterrey made a good start to their first ever CONCACAF Champions League campaign defeating Costa Rican giants Deportivo Saprissa by a goal to nil in Group C. Saprissa, who won the old CONCACAF Champions Cup three times before the competition was re-named, were hopeful of getting something away from home against a team who haven’t had a lot of success at international level. However there would be just the one goal separating the two teams at the end of the game thanks to Monterrey’s Aldo de Nigris’ close-range tap-in after 25 minutes to give the defending Mexican Apertura champions the three points. In the other group match Club Deportivo Marathón and Seattle Sounders shared three first-half goals between them in a game which saw a win for Marathón by two goals to one. The Sounders took the lead in the 17th minute through Roger Lavesque but the lead only lasted ten minutes as Orvin Paz restored parity for the home team. Marathón sealed the win with a first-half stoppage time penalty through Nicolas Cardozo to start their Champions League campaign with a win.

WATCH CF MONTERREY v SAPRISSA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

CFU Caribbean champions Puerto Rico Islanders are ever-presents in the three-year history of the CONCACAF Champions League and opened their campaign against Olimpia of Honduras. Despite having home advantage the Islanders were eventually made to work hard for the point they gained out of this match. Nicholas Addlery had given the Puerto Ricans a first half lead when his beautiful backheel at the near post put the Islanders a goal up at the break. Olimpia, though, took the game to their hosts in the second half and eventually got their reward when Mauricio Copete received the ball in the Islanders’ penalty area and nutmegged keeper Bill Gaudette. In the second game of Group D El Salvador’s FAS toughed it out at home to Mexicans Toluca and secured a point in a goalless stalemate. Therefore the group table sees all four teams on one point each with Olimpia and the PR Islanders occupying top spot by virtue of goals scored.

WATCH PUERTO RICO ISLANDERS v OLIMPIA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Copa Libertadores: Inter claim second title (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on August 19, 2010

Internacional clinched their second Copa Libertadores title in Porto Alegre last night getting the better of Chivas Guadalajara 5-3 on aggregate. There was an expectant 56,000 crowd for the match held at Internacional’s Estádio Beira-Rio home ground and they were hoping that there wouldn’t be further Brazilian disappointment after second-leg home losses to Grêmio, Fluminense (albeit after a penalty shoot-out) and Cruzeiro in the last three finals. The signs were positive after Inter had defeated Chivas 2-1 in the first leg in Guadalajara and O Colorado wanted to reclaim the title they’d won for the first time in 2006 in a dramatic final against compatriots São Paulo.

The Mexicans, however, were prepared to make a bit of a fight of it in the first half and Chivas would eventually make their breakthrough two minutes before the half-time interval when Marco Fabián was on hand to score the opening goal of the game with a splendid overhead kick and, thus, make the home support a little edgier going into the second half. Inter’s experience meant that they would eventually have a say in the match and once Rafael Sóbis equalized in the 61st minute there was no turning back for the hosts. Strikes from second half substitutes Leandro Damião (76 mins) and Giuliano (89 mins) ensured that the party started early in the stands with Patricio Araújo’s consolation goal in stoppage time proving academic. When Colombian Oscar Ruiz blew the whistle for full-time the celebrations were already in full flow but moments later a fight broke out after Chivas’ goalscorer Fabián alleged that he’d been punched by an Inter supporter which then started an altercation between the two teams. After the teams had been separated the stage was set for Internacional captain Bolívar to hoist the trophy into the heavens and signal the club as Bi-Campeão (two-time winners) and secure a place at the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup in which they’ll expect a truly “international” contest against European champions Internazionale FC in the final.

WATCH COPA LIBERTADORES FINAL 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:


Bundesliga: 2010-11 Season Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 17, 2010
FC Bayern München

Mark Van Bommel lifts the Bundesliga trophy for FC Bayern last season. Will they win it again in 2010-11?

Der Ball rollt wieder! The Bundesliga is back on Friday and everybody is looking forward to another great season in arguably Europe’s most exciting league. Germany’s Rekordmeister FC Bayern München have already sent out the warning signs to the rest of the Bundesliga having secured the DFB Supercup over Schalke 04 in Augsburg a fortnight ago. Seventeen clubs are hoping to knock the Bavarian giants off their perch but can anybody really stop Louis Van Gaal’s men from winning the Meisterschale for a 23rd time? Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the weekend’s games ahead of the new campaign:

It has become a recent tradition in the Bundesliga that the defending champions take part in the opening match of the following season but this season’s big kick-off sees the last two title winning teams facing off in Munich’s Allianz Arena on Friday. FC Bayern, under the stewardship of Louis Van Gaal, will hope to emulate their achievements of last season in which they won the league and cup double for the sixth time in the last decade. Their opponents will be 2008-09 champions VfL Wolfsburg who have reignited their ambitions by bringing in English coach Steve McClaren who has been such a success in neighbouring Holland with FC Twente Enschede. Not only have Die Wölfe kept hold of important players such as Džeko, Grafite and Misimović but have brought in some new talent such as Simon Kjær and Arne Friedrich.

Raúl

Raúl (middle) is the biggest signing of the summer for Schalke 04

Last season’s runners up Schalke 04 are hoping to go one better under determined coach Felix Magath and pulled off one of the transfer coups of the summer bringing in Real Madrid legend Raúl who, although is past his prime, can still perform on the highest stage and will bring some much needed experience to the Gelsenkirchen club. They play Hamburger SV on Saturday evening with the northern port club needing Ruud Van Nistelrooy to kick-start their season with plenty of goals after they narrowly missed out on a European place last season. Their northern neighbours Werder Bremen may be pre-occupied by UEFA Champions League qualification matters in the opening days of the new season but they’ll still want to get off to a good start especially as they have failed to win on the opening day of a league season since 2006-07. Their preparations have been hampered somewhat by the ongoing speculation surrounding their star player Mesut Özil whose move to Real Madrid was finalised today. Bremen’s opponents on Saturday are TSG 1899 Hoffenheim who are in their third season of Bundesliga football and still maintain the high ambitions they had from when they arrived on the scene in 2008-09.

Michael Skibbe

Eintracht Frankfurt coach Michael Skibbe wants the club to challenge for Europe

In the other Saturday matches Eintracht Frankfurt will hope to continue their steady progress under coach Michael Skibbe and after a successful pre-season, the highlight of which was a 2-1 win over English double winners Chelsea FC, Die Adler will hope to better last season’s tenth place and challenge for a UEFA Europa League place. Having signed Theofanis Gekas from Bayer Leverkusen the club should be guaranteed more goals from a striker who is used to life in the Bundesliga. Eintracht play Hannover 96 who have suffered in recent times due to the untimely death of keeper Robert Enke but will approach this season fresh after staying up in the midst of last season’s relegation battle. Nürnberg, who avoided relegation last season thanks to a 5-0 aggregate win against FC Augsburg in the play-off, are away at five-times champions Borussia Mönchengladbach whilst the two newly-promoted teams both face away trips on the opening day of the new season. Last season’s 2. Bundesliga champions 1.FC Kaiserslautern return after a four year absence and travel to Cologne to play 1.FC Köln for whom superstar Lukas Podolski will want to get back amongst the goals after a disappointing 2009-10 campaign. St Pauli, the legendary cult club from Hamburg, also return to the top flight and may fancy their chances against an SC Freiburg side who finished 14th last term and are amongst the favourites for the drop having signed very few players in the close season.

Leverkusen

Michael Ballack (middle) is back at Bayer 04 Leverkusen

On Sunday VfB Stuttgart, rejuvenated under the guidance of coach Christian Gross following the sacking of his predecessor Markus Babbel last Christmas, will hope to start with an away win at 1.FSV Mainz but that is no way guaranteed against a team who finished in a respectable ninth place in 2009-10. The final game of the weekend is a widely anticipated clash between an improving Borussia Dortmund and ambitious Bayer 04 Leverkusen who, despite an unbeaten 22 game start, could only finish in fourth place last season. Leverkusen have made their intentions clear for the new season by signing Michael Ballack from Chelsea and have kept stars Stefan Kießling, Patrick Helmes and Simon Rolfes although they had to see Toni Kroos return to FC Bayern after his loan spell. Dortmund have qualified for the UEFA Europa League in the two seasons that Jürgen Klopp has been their coach but they may harbour quiet ambitions towards the UEFA Champions League this time especially as they have kept the nucleus of the team which finished in fifth place last season.


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Asia: Season begins in Saudi Arabia; Leagues round-up

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on August 16, 2010
T&T Ha noi

T&T Ha noi are the new champions of Vietnam

The new Saudi football season began and a new champion was crowned in Vietnam this weekend. In the meantime each of the three big Asian leagues in China, Japan and South Korea are now past the halfway point of their domestic championship seasons. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments from Asia.

The new 2010-11 season began in Saudi Arabia this weekend with everybody hoping to catch Al Hilal who won the league at a canter last season sealing the title by eleven points from nearest challengers Al Ittihad. Champions Al Hilal began their campaign of Sunday with a slender 1-0 win against newly promoted Al Taawon with Abdullatif Al Ghannam getting on the scoresheet. On Saturday night Al Ittihad were amongst the eight teams kicking off the new season and began with a 2-1 home win against Al Ittifaq who just survived a relegation battle last season and could find themselves involved at the bottom again this time. There were also wins for Al Quadisiya, Al Raed, Al Nasr and Al Ahli whilst the final game of the weekend saw a thrilling 3-3 draw between Al Wehda and Al Faysali.

T&T Hanoi are the new Vietnamese champions after securing the point they needed from their Matchday 25 game against already relegated Saigon. With two rounds of matches remaining T&T knew that one point from six would be enough to give them the championship and for coach Phan Thanh Hung, who took over from previous coach Nguyen Huu Thang at the start of the season, it was a fantastic way to end his first season at the helm and, as a result of the title success, T&T will get the chance to participate in the 2011 AFC Champions League qualifiers.

In China’s Super League Shandong Luneng remain in pole position (played 17, points 35) following a 2-1 win away at Chongqing Lifan with Deng Zhuoxiang and Julio César de León getting on the scoresheet to help the league leaders come from behind after Johnny Woodly Lambert had given the home side the lead. Shanghai Shenhua dropped two precious points in the title race and could only manage a 1-1 draw at Hangzhou Lucheng. After Duvier Riascos had given Shanghai the lead early in the second half Australian Adam Griffiths restored parity for the home side who drop from third to fourth place on the back of this result. Taking their place in third are Beijing Guo’an, the defending champions lie six points behind the league leaders after another Aussie international Ryan Griffiths, the aforementioned Adam’s brother, scored both goals in their 2-1 home win against Changchun Yatai.

Japan’s J-League remains very tight at the top with just six points separating the top four teams. League leaders Nagoya Grampus Eight (played 18, points 38) saw off the challenge of Urawa Red Diamonds by three goals to one with Keiji Tamada scoring twice for Dragan Stojković’s men. This win allowed Nagoya to climb above Shimuzu S-Pulse into first place as the latter went down to a 2-1 reverse at home to Yokohama F Marinos. Third place Kashima Antlers were three minutes away from gaining all three points against FC Tokyo but the visitors equalized in the 87th minute to prevent the defending J-League champions from claiming second spot in the table. Two goals in the second half from Yusuke Tasaka and Kengo Nakamura gifted three points to fourth place Kawasaki Frontale in their 2-0 home win against Sanfreece Hiroshima to leave them six points behind the league leaders.

In the South Korean K-League a top of the table clash saw Gyeongnam win a pulsating game against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors by three goals to two. After Gyeongnam had gone three goals to the good just after the hour mark they began to get nervous as the match entered its closing stages and allowed visiting Jeonbuk to pull back two goals in the space of sixty seconds but Gyeongnam managed to hold out and secure three points which takes them clear at the top (played 16, points 34). Jeonbuk are three points further behind along with second place Jeju United, who have the better goal difference, despite losing 4-2 away at Chunnam Dragons. Asian champions Pohang Steelers are still recovering from a dreadful start on the domestic front and won their second consecutive game this weekend away at bottom team Daegu FC by two goals to nil with both strikes coming in stoppage time. The win lifts the Steelers to eleventh in the fifteen team league.

CAF: Kabylie and TP Mazembe still going strong; African cups review

Posted in African Football by peterbein on August 16, 2010
CAF Champions League trophy

Eight teams are competing to win the CAF Champions League trophy

African club competition is really starting to hot up. The CAF Champions League is now at the midway point of the group stage whilst the CAF Confederation Cup has began its group stage after three intense rounds of knockout so far. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reports on the latest developments in Africa’s two biggest club tournaments.

Defending Champions League holders TP Mazembe are still unbeaten in Group A and with their 2-1 home win against Tunisian champions Espérance on Sunday have ended their opponents 100% record in the group stage. Michael Eneramo opened the scoring for Espérance in the 42nd minute of the game but the lead didn’t last for very long as Dioko Kaluyituka equalized for the Congolese side with just sixty seconds of the first half remaining. Just as time was running out in the second half the winning mentality of the African champions showed once more when Ngandu Kasongo gave TP Mazembe all three points with his 86th minute winner. In the other Group A Zimbabwean side Dynamos FC secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Algerian giants ES Sétif with Wonder Sithole’s 31st minute goal proving decisive. In the standings TP Mazembe (played 3, points 7) have a single point advantage over Espérance whilst Dynamos’ first win of the competition means that they have three points, two ahead of wooden spoonists ES Sétif.

In Group B Ismaily managed to squeeze a 1-0 victory at home to Nigerian side Heartland FC with Ndubuisi Eze, ironically a Nigerian, scoring the only goal for the Egyptians which allowed previously pointless Ismaily to overtake Heartland into third place in the standings. The game which meant everything at the top of the group was between Algerians JS Kabylie and record champions Al Ahly who met in Algiers. Once again there was only one goal to separate the sides and it was the home side who got it after 24 minutes after Mohamed Khoutir-Ziti scored the goal which preserved Kabylie’s 100% record in the tournament.

CAF Confederation Cup

Eight teams are competing to win the CAF Confederation Cup

The group stages of the CAF Confederation Cup began this weekend without very many goals being scored. The opening match of Group A saw a goalless draw between ASFAN FC (Niger) and Djoliba FC (Mali) whilst the other game had more excitement with Ittihad (Libya) and Al Hilal (Sudan) meeting in Tripoli. The Sudanaese got the better of their hosts with a 2-1 scoreline with Mohamed Ahmed securing three points in the 67th minute. Group B didn’t fare any better in terms of goal action with just the one goal scored in two games. FUS Rabat (Morocco) gained three points against Zanaco FC (Zambia) thanks to a lone strike from Mohammed Benchrifa in the 57th minute whilst Haras El Hodood (Egypt) and CS Sfaxien (Tunisia) could only manage a goalless draw.

Europe: BATE and Skonto Riga win crucial clashes; Summer Leagues Round-Up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 15, 2010
BATE Borisov

BATE Borisov could be celebrating more title success this year after beating Soligorsk 2-0 at the weekend

Although most of Europe’s top leagues have now got under way for a new season that doesn’t mean that we forget those championships which began earlier in the year and which are now entering the business end of the season. There have been, for example, top of the table clashes in Belarus, Latvia and Finland whilst league leaders dropped points in Russia and won three points in Estonia, Lithuania and the Republic of Ireland. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments in Europe’s summer leagues.

In the Belarussian Vysshaya Liga on Saturday there were two important fixtures with the match of the round involving defending champions BATE Borisov, looking to win a fifth straight championship, playing against second place Soligorsk. At the same time there was a capital derby with bottom of the table Partizan Minsk taking on third place FC Minsk. BATE took control of their home encounter from the off and were two goals to the good after just half an hour thanks to strikes from Artem Kontsevoy and Edgar Olekhnovich. With no further goals in the game the home side had secured three points without too many problems. In the other game FC Minsk beat their cross-town rivals by four goals to one with Dzmitry Osipenko on target twice to keep up the chase on BATE Borisov (played 20, points 45), overtaking Soligorsk into second place and lie three points behind the leaders albeit having played a game more.

In Latvia’s Virslīga league leaders Skonto Riga (played 15, points 40) kept up their title credentials thanks to a 2-1 away victory at defending champions Liepājas Metalurgs. Brazilian Nathan Junior scored his twelfth goal of the season from the penalty spot to give Skonto the lead and it got better for the capital outfit on 35 minutes when Ruslan Mingazov doubled the lead. After that setback it was clear that Rüdiger Abramczik’s men needed to react and that was what they did just four minutes later, halving the deficit with Jurģis Kalns scoring from the spot. No matter how much the home side tried though they were unable to break through Skonto’s resolute defence for a second time and it was Alexandrs Starkovs’ men who went away with the three points. With Metalurgs now a full ten points behind Skonto in the standings the championship is now a two horse race with second place FK Ventspils easily beating FK Jaunība by five goals to nil to remain just two points behind Skonto. Their imminent clash on 12th September could be a fascinating duel.

Welliton

Welliton's hat-trick helped Spartak beat Lokomotiv 3-2 on Sunday

The Russian Premier League saw Zenit St Petersburg drop two points at home to Dinamo Moscow. The visitors took the lead thanks to new signing Kevin Kuranyi who opened the scoring after 26 minutes but it only took Zenit eight minutes to restore parity after Danko Lazović scored only his second goal of the season to help preserve Zenit’s lead (played 16, points 40) which remains at seven points after Rubin Kazan, champions from the last two years, also dropped two points in a 1-1 draw away at Terek Grozny. CSKA Moscow went above Rubin on goal difference thanks to an impressive 4-0 home win against Anzhi Makhachkala, Sekou Oliseh scoring twice along with Zoran Tošić and Vágner Love. In the Moscow derby Spartak got back to winning ways with a 3-2 away win against Lokomotiv with Valeri Karpin’s men grateful to the shooting boots of Brazilian forward Welliton whose hat-trick was crucial in gaining three points for Spartak who now lie in seventh in the table on equal points to Lokomotiv.

The Veikkausliiga in Finland saw record champions HJK Helsinki lose at home to nearest challengers Honka Espoo, Rasmus Schüller’s goal midway through the second half was enough to separate the sides and narrow the gap between HJK and Honka to just three points with both teams having played eighteen games. KuPs Tuopio won their game away at JJK Jyväskylä on Friday by three goals to one to remain just a further point behind HJK and ensure that the championship race remains tight in Finland.

Estonia’s Meistriliiga saw both of the main title chasers predictably win their games against inferior opposition. Defending champions and league leaders Levadia Tallinn (played 25, points 60) easily disposed of fifth place Nõmme Kalju by five goals to one with Brazilian Felipe Nunes bagging a brace. Title challengers and eternal rivals Flora Tallinn are six points behind Levadia but have three games in hand, a situation that remains the same after their 5-0 home demolition of FC Lootus Kohtla-Järve with Hannes Anier scoring a hat-trick to keep up the pressure on the league leaders.

FK Ekranas (played 18, points 45) preserved their ten point advantage at the top of Lithuania’s A Lyga coming from behind to gain a point at home to FK Sūduva. Povilas Lukšys gave the away side the lead after 27 minutes only to see the league leaders equalize seven minutes later through Ramūnas Radavičius. All is not lost for the chasing pack however as Žalgiris Vilnius, who drew their weekend game 1-1 away at FK Banga, lie ten points behind with a game in hand and FK Sūduva are a further point back with two games in hand.

Finally in the Republic of Ireland’s Airtricity Premier League Shamrock Rovers managed to pull away from title rivals St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night after the former’s 2-0 win away at Drogheda United was coupled with the latter’s 3-2 defeat at Bray Wanderers. Shamrock (played 25, points 48) have the advantage but will have to beware of the challenge not just of St Pat’s but also of Sligo Rovers who lie six points behind in third place (albeit having played a game more) after they beat University College Dublin (UCD) 4-0 on Saturday.

Spain: Sevilla hold advantage in Super Cup (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 15, 2010
Freddie Kanouté

Freddie Kanouté's two goals could prove crucial for Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup

Copa del Rey holders Sevilla FC hold a 3-1 advantage over Spanish league champions FC Barcelona  following the first leg of the 2010 Spanish Super Cup in Seville. Zlatan Ibrahimović gave the Blaugrana the lead in the 20th minute getting on the end of a Maxwell through ball which the Swede took with great aplomb. “Barça” held on to the lead at the break but a very different Sevilla came out for the second half and, thanks to goals from Luís Fabiano and Freddie Kanouté (2), the Andalucians turned the game around in order to hold a healthy advantage for the second leg. Fabiano equalized on the hour mark after substitute Luca Cigirini found Fabiano whose pace took him ahead of Sergi Gómez to put the ball past debutant keeper Rubén Miño. Kanouté would then punish FC Barcelona with two goals in the final twenty minutes of the match; the first was taken inside the box following a beautiful pass from the right by Álvaro Negredo, using the outside of his left foot to find the Malian striker, and a header seven minutes from time sealed the win for Sevilla who now go to the Camp Nou on Saturday, August 21st for the second leg. Sevilla are hoping to win only their second Super Cup following their sole success three years ago whilst if Barça overturns the deficit they will win the trophy for the ninth time, taking them one victory ahead of their great rivals Real Madrid CF.

WATCH SPANISH SUPER CUP 1ST LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE: