J-League champions Nagoya Grampus Eight and Emperor’s Cup holders Kashima Antlers began the season in Japan on Saturday with the traditional curtain raising Super Cup match.
Nagoya won their maiden league title in 2010 having beaten nearest challengers Gamba Osaka by ten points whilst Kashima Antlers, the team deposed as league champions by Nagoya, had the consolation of winning Japanese football’s main knockout tournament defeating Shimuzu S-Pulse 2-1 in the final. Kashima were hoping to win their third consecutive Super Cup whilst Nagoya were hoping to win a second Super Cup crown fifteen years after their first.
The game was a tight affair in the first half and, to nobody’s surprise, remained goalless at the break. Thankfully the game opened up in the second half when Takahiro Masukawa headed home to break the deadlock nine minutes into the second half and this gave the game the spur it needed. Twelve minutes later the game was back on level terms following Takuya Nozawa’s free-kick and this was how the game would end up following 120 minutes of action.
Therefore a penalty shoot-out was needed and it was looking bad for the champions after Australian international Joshua Kennedy missed with the first spot-kick but Kashima were unable to capitalise as captain Daiki Iwamasa also failed to convert his opportunity. Nagoya scored from three of their remaining penalties as Jungo Fujimoto, Alessandro Santos and Yoshizumi Ogawa were all successful whereas Kashima could only watch in despair as Alex and Toru Araiba had their kicks saved by Nagoya keeper Seigo Narazaki. This allowed the champions to prevail by a 3-1 scoreline in the shoot-out and meant that Nagoya could savour their second triumph in this competition.
The United States will meet their neighbours and old foes Canada in the final of this year’s CONCACAF Under-17 Championship final in Jamaica on Sunday. The Americans defeated the hosts in order to gain their berth in the final whilst Canada scraped a slender one goal win over Panama to reach their first ever tournament final.
The Americans are the favourites to lift the CONCACAF Under-17 title following their 2-0 triumph over Jamaica on Friday night. Marc Pelosi opened the scoring after just ten minutes but the USA team would have to wait until two minutes into second half stoppage time before they could celebrate the win. Andrew Oliver made sure of the win after striking the second goal of the game to ensure that his team would face the Canadians who had, earlier in the day, beaten Panama in their semi-final match.
The Canadians had it tougher in their last four encounter and the game was decided by an eighth minute goal from Luca Gasparotto. This made sure of Canada’s first ever appearance in a tournament final at this level. The best that Canada had done in this competition was a quartet of 3rd place finishes in the former Under-16 tournaments held in 1985, 1988, 1992 and 1994. The United States, on the other hand, have plenty of experience in this tournament winning it outright in 1983 and 1992 as well as a couple of group wins in the 1990s.
The 3rd/4th place play-off between losing semi-finalists Panama and Jamaica will take place on Sunday at 16:00 local time whilst the final between United States and Canada kicks off at 19:00.
This is the latest video doing the rounds on the internet and it involves Chilean defender Bryan Carrasco in the recent South American Youth Championship. He is in a tussle with Ecuador’s Edson Montaño and the Chilean is so desperate for the ball back that he uses Montaño’s hand to hit himself in the face in order to win a free-kick. For those of you who hope that cheats never prosper you’ll be pleased to hear that Carrasco ended up on the losing side as Ecuador held on to their 1-0 lead.
This weekend sees this season’s biggest match in the Bundesliga so far. Rekordmeister FC Bayern München play host to Tabellenführer Borussia Dortmund on Saturday hoping to claw back three points in the chase to win the 2010-11 German championship.
Dortmund, coached by the charismatic Jürgen Klopp, have defied the critics this season by maintaining the impressive form that has seen them rocket up the table. Following their opening day defeat at the hands of Bayer 04 Leverkusen the Schwarzgelben have lost only one game – away at Eintracht Frankfurt in round 17 – and remain undefeated in six games since the resumption of the league after the winter break. With only Leverkusen separating Dortmund from their hosts this weekend the game takes on increased importance to the powerhouses of FC Bayern who aren’t used to having to chase teams down.
In saying that FC Bayern did make a success of hunting down Leverkusen last season. Following a slow start to the 2009-10 season Van Gaal eventually got to grips with the task facing him and overturned a deficit of six points into a lead which saw the Bavarians win a record extending 22nd title by five points over eventual runners-up Schalke 04. This time, though, FC Bayern face a much more difficult task against the league leaders who are, without doubt, the most organised and efficient team in the league. Whereas Bayern have more stars and players of greater individual quality, Dortmund have a much more effective unit who know how to kill teams off when it matters.
This weekend’s match isn’t just anticipated because of the current plight of the two teams but also due to the fact that this is one of the country’s top fixtures. In fact if Germany is to have a fixture to rival some of the other Clasicos of world football then this is it. Although Borussia Dortmund may lag some way behind their Bavarian adversaries in the honours stakes (e.g. Bayern 22 league titles to Dortmund’s 6; Bayern 4-times European champions to Dortmund’s one triumph in 1997) this is a match-up which had the seeds of a real rivalry sown in the early to mid 1990s when Dortmund was a regular challenger to FC Bayern for the Meisterschale (championship trophy). Sadly, after the club celebrated its most recent title in 2002, Dortmund’s flirtation with the stock market and subsequent financial difficulties saw the club have no choice but to get rid of good quality players and sell the stadium, thus ruining all of the good work, allowing Bayern to reclaim their virtual monopoly of German football.
Thankfully, though, Dortmund are back and are leading the way under coach Klopp who has steadily guided a young, talented team up the table in his first two seasons in charge of the Ruhrpott club and go into this game having won three and drawn three of the last six games. Louis Van Gaal can, at least, be thankful to the fact that Arjen Robben is now back in the team following a six month absence through a hamstring injury and the form of the Münchener has taking a turn for the better as a result. FC Bayern go into this match on the back of a fantastic UEFA Champions League victory away at European champions FC Internazionale, the team who defeated the German champions in the final last May, and have the advantage of playing in front of a sell-out Allianz Arena crowd in Munich on Saturday evening.
FC Bayern still have Ivica Olic out through injury whilst Dortmund will still be without the services of players such as Florian Kringe and Shinji Kagawa. Despite this both clubs will be able to field strong teams this weekend and one can only hope that a classic match awaits.
It’s the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, North and Central America’s elite football competition, and the first legs have been completed over the last few days and each tie still remains in the balance.
Featuring prominently in the last eight line-up are two all-Mexican ties. Cruz Azul, runners-up in the last two years, started the knockout phase of this year’s competition on a winning note getting the better of compatriots Santos Laguna. The tournament’s top scorer so far, Javier Orozco, bagged his eleventh strike of the competition in fortunate fashion when giving Los Cementos the lead after 58 minutes. It took just ten minutes for Cruz Azul to double their advantage thanks to Christian Giménez and that was how the match finished up. In the other all-Mexican clash CF Monterrey were ultimately grateful to Osvaldo Martínez for scoring the only goal of the game against their hosts Deportivo Toluca with eight minutes remaining.
WATCH CRUZ AZUL v SANTOS LAGUNA GOALS HERE:
Another fascinating clash took place in the United States with 2008 MLS Cup winners Columbus Crew playing host to 2009 MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake and with both teams preparing for a new domestic season to kick off this was the perfect opportunity for either team to gain on a notch on their rivals. Sadly, for neither team, opportunities went begging and the game petered out into a goalless draw. In the final game, played on Thursday night, Costa Rican record champions Deportivo Saprissa took away a slender 1-0 advantage from their home tie against Honduran opponents C.D. Olimpia with Armando Alonso scoring the only goal after 23 minutes.
WATCH COLUMBUS CREW v REAL SALT LAKE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The Round of 32 stage has been completed in the UEFA Europa League and there was no shortage of action as well. It was an especially good time for clubs from Russia, Portugal, the Netherlands and Great Britain whose teams make up 75% of the remaining sixteen teams. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the Round of 32 and details the draw for the next round.
This week’s action began on Tuesday where CSKA Moscow, the 2005 UEFA Cup winners, got Russian clubs off to a great start by progressing with thanks to a late Sergei Ignashivech goal helping his team to a 2-1 aggregate win over Greek side PAOK Thessaloniki. Fellow compatriots Spartak Moscow and Zenit Saint Petersburg also progressed, getting the better of Swiss opposition with 4-3 aggregate wins over FC Basel and Young Boys Berne respectively. Only Rubin Kazan failed to make it a 100% success rate for the Motherland having failed in their quest to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit at the hands of Dutch champions FC Twente Enschede who ultimately came through 4-2 on aggregate.
Wednesday night saw FC Porto, 2003 UEFA Cup winners, claim their place in the last sixteen on away goals following an entertaining match against two-time UEFA Cup winners Sevilla FC. The Spanish side won 1-0 on the night but had lost the first leg at home 2-1 thus allowing FC Porto to go through. Benfica and Sporting Braga made it a great round for the Portuguese having overcome the respective challenges of German side VfB Stuttgart (4-1) and Polish champions Lech Poznan (2-1).
Only Sporting Lisbon failed to make it a perfect night for Portugal as they went out on away goals to Scottish champions Glasgow Rangers thanks to a stoppage time Maurice Edu strike giving the Gers a 2-2 draw (3-3 aggregate). This proved the highlight for the British clubs with Rangers also joined in the next round by Liverpool FC, who just survived a tough tie against Sparta Prague thanks to a late Dirk Kuijt winner, and Manchester City who did the damage early against Greek side Aris Thessaloniki, Edin Dzeko bagging a brace in a 3-0 win.
Dutch clubs also fared well with PSV Eindhoven and Ajax Amsterdam, who have two UEFA Cup victories between them, joining FC Twente in the Round of 16 having seen off Lille OSC (5-3) and RSC Anderlecht (5-0) respectively. Amongst the rest of the competitors Italian side SSC Napoli went out of the competition losing 2-1 to sole Spanish representatives Villarreal CF. Bayer 04 Leverkusen maintained a German presence in the tournament by easily brushing aside the challenge of Ukrainians Metalist Kharkiv (6-0). It was better for Kharkiv’s Ukrainian rivals Dynamo Kyiv who had the result of the round when hammering Besiktas with an 8-1 scoreline whilst Paris Saint Germain were fortunate to go through with an away goals win over Belarussian champions BATE Borisov.
ROUND OF 16 DRAW
Benfica v Paris Saint Germain
Dynamo Kyiv v Manchester City
FC Twente v Zenit Saint Petersburg
CSKA Moscow v FC Porto
PSV Eindhoven v Glasgow Rangers
Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Villarreal CF
Ajax Amsterdam v Spartak Moscow
Sporting Braga v Liverpool FC
All ties to be played on March 10-17
After the first four ties opened the Round of 16 phase in the UEFA Champions League last week it is the turn of the remaining four ties to take centre stage.
CHELSEA FC (England) v FC KØBENHAVN (Denmark)
It’s all going wrong for Chelsea at the moment; fifth in the English Premier League and effectively out of the title race along with a dismal elimination at home to Everton FC in last weekend’s FA Cup match means that the Blues from the King’s Road only have the UEFA Champions League left to play for. Even a clash against Danish champions and runaway Superliga leaders FC København seems a daunting prospect despite the fact that the Danes haven’t played a competitive fixture since their last group stage match against Panathinaikos in early December. FCK, who hold a nineteen point advantage over Odense Boldklub domestically, will hope that they can gain revenge on Chelsea after the London side knocked them out of the now-defunct Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1998-99 season.
FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany) v INTERNAZIONALE (Italy)
A repeat of last season’s final and a chance for German giants FC Bayern to gain revenge on the Italians who no longer have coach Jose Mourinho to inspire them to victory. Indeed a lot has changed since Internazionale became European champions last May; FIFA Club World Cup champions in December, two coaches have followed in the Special One’s footsteps and current occupant Leonardo, who replaced Rafael Benitez at the turn of the year, is doing a steady job and has guided the Nerazzurri to third in Serie A lying five points behind local enemies AC Milan. FC Bayern have also recovered in recent months after a less than impressive start to the season but the Muenchener still trail league leaders Borussia Dortmund by thirteen points. But having scored thirteen points in the six games played since the resumption of league action following the winter break, as well as reaching the domestic cup semi-final against fellow Champions League participants Schalke 04, the Bavarians are finding their form at the right time.
MANCHESTER UNITED (England) v OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE (France)
It is a surprise that these two clubs have hardly ever faced each other in European competition so it will be intriging to see who comes out on top in this showdown. The last time these teams crossed paths was in the 1999-2000 group stage when both teams emerged triumphant in their respective home ties. English league leaders United are still in the hunt to emulate their 1998-99 Treble winning season and when the draw was made many saw this as a tie that the Red Devils could easily negotiate their way through. However the French side are in good form, winning four and drawing one in their last five Ligue 1 games, and lie in third place just three points behind leaders Lille OSC. With the Stade Velodrome being one of European football’s most intimidating arenas Sir Alex Ferguson’s men cannot afford to take this one lightly.
REAL MADRID (Spain) v OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (France)
Yet another episode in the continuing saga between Real Madrid, still hunting for a record extending tenth title in this competition nine years after winning their last, and Olympique Lyonnais who have been the scourge of los Blancos in recent years. The French side knocked Real Madrid out of the tournament at the same stage last season but hopes are high amongst the Spanish faithful that this is the time to finally break their duck against a team they’ve failed to beat in six attempts. Both clubs come into the match in good form with Real Madrid winning nine of their eleven league matches since suffering a heavy 5-0 reverse at the hands of arch-rivals FC Barcelona. Olympique Lyonnais have only lost once in their last seventeen matches in Ligue 1 (a 2-1 defeat to Valenciennes) but, with numerous draws in that run, the club lies only in fourth place.
The CONCACAF Champions League resumes this week with an interesting fixture list as the competition commences its knockout stages. There are two all-Mexican affairs as well as an all-American encounter and an intriging match-up involving the record champions of Costa Rica and Honduras. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks ahead to the last eight clashes.
With Mexican clubs dominating this tournament in recent years the odds are very favourable that this pattern of events will continue this season although one big relief for the rest of the opposition is that the Mexican contingent will be cut by half in the quarter-final stages. Group B winners Santos Laguna, who came top of a group containing Columbus Crew, Municipal CSD and Joe Public FC, will meet compatriots Cruz Azul who have not enjoyed their fair share of luck in this tournament in recent years. The last time Los Cementos won this tournament was in its former guise of the Champions Cup in 1997 but since then have lost the last two Champions League finals against Atlante FC (2008-09) and Pachuca CF (2009-10). If they are to make it third time lucky then they will have to get the better of a Mexican side in both the next two rounds.
That’s because the winners of this game are due to meet the winners of the other all-Mexican clash between Deportivo Toluca and current Mexican champions Monterrey CF. Deportivo Toluca, at the time of writing, have the fourth best record in the current Mexican Clausura championship and are in good form coming into their quarter-final against Apertura champions Monterrey who are hoping to win the continent’s biggest prize for the first time in thier history. Monterrey finished top of Group D ahead of Deportivo Saprissa, CD Marathón and Seattle Sounders with the best record of 5-1-0 in the group stage whilst Toluca had to be satisifed with second spot in Group C behind Olimpia.
The all-American affair between Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake will be much anticipated especially as the competition is awaiting its first winner from Major League Soccer. 2009 MLS champions Real Salt Lake finished ahead of Cruz Azul at the top of Group A and will prove a stern test for 2008 MLS champions Columbus Crew who had to contend with second spot in Group B behind Santos Laguna. But, with the 2011 MLS season not beginning until March 15th, both teams will want to lay down a marker ahead of the new domestic season with success on the international stage. The final quarter-final sees Costa Rican giants Deportivo Saprissa, three-time winners and the last team from outside Mexico to win this tournament in 2005, face up to the challenge of Hondurans CD Olimpia who won the second of their two continental titles to date in 1988. Saprissa finished six points behind Monterrey in their group whilst Olimpia pipped Toluca to the top in Group D by three points and the winners of this quarter-final will meet the victors of the all-American clash.
The first legs of the quarter-finals will be played on February 22-24 with the second legs following on March 1-3.
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER-FINAL DRAW (All two-legged ties – team on left at home in 1st leg)
1. Deportivo Toluca v Monterrey CF
2. Cruz Azul v Santos Laguna
3. Columbus Crew v Real Salt Lake
4. Deportivo Saprissa v CD Olimpia
5. Winner Match 1 v Winner Match 2
6. Winner Match 3 v Winner Match 4
7. Winner Match 5 v Winner Match 6
South African football’s biggest clubs and arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs lead the way in the ABSA Premiership with Ajax Cape Town close by hoping for them both to slip up in what could be one of the country’s most exciting title races for years. There are nine games to go and just two points separating Orlando in first place from Ajax in third.
SuperSport United, champions for the previous three seasons, are nowhere to be seen this time languishing in thirteenth place in the sixteen team league and have, thus, left it to the country’s big two and Ajax Cape Town to dream of lifting the championship trophy. Ajax were the big winners this weekend after closing the gap following their 2-1 win away on Saturday evening at local rivals Vasco da Gama Cape Town. Ajax, who are owned by the famous Dutch club of the same name, had the lead at half-time through a Thulani Serero goal in the 26th minute but Vasco da Gama, named after the famous Brazilian club although not connected to them, restored parity six minutes after the break with Francois Adams scoring the equalizer. The winner for Ajax came with thirteen minutes to play as Serero bagged his second of the game to gift the three points to his side.
Orlando Pirates, who were most recently South African champions eight years ago, could only muster a 1-1 draw at home on Sunday to 11th place AmaZulu Durban with all the excitement coming in the last three minutes of the match. Lehlohonolo Majoro thought he’d won it for AmaZulu when he struck in the 87th minute but the home side deprived the visitors of victory with a stoppage time equalizer through Happy Jele. The dropped points could’ve proven costly to the Pirates but they were let off after closest challengers Kaizer Chiefs allowed their hosts Santos FC, another club from Cape Town with a famous name, to steal a march twice in their game before securing a 2-2 draw. Kaizer Chiefs, who last won the championship in 2005, were behind after 23 minutes after Santos Wana gave his side the lead but Knowledge Musona equalized from the penalty spot seven minutes before half-time. Santos FC, who lie sixth in the standings, re-took the lead on 52 minutes through Jurie Basie only to see Sthembiso Ncobo secure the point for the Chiefs with quarter of an hour remaining.
With 21 of the 30 rounds played Orlando Pirates lead the table with 45 points, two ahead of both Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town. Kaizer Chiefs are in second place thanks to a goal difference of +15, three better than Santos FC. The next round of games could go some way to determining the destination of the trophy with the country’s biggest game to feature in Soweto as the Chiefs have home advantage against the Pirates next Saturday afternoon. Before that on Friday Ajax Cape Town will hope to leapfrog over their two title rivals, even if it’s only for a few hours, with a win at home to eighth place Free State Stars.
The post-season Play-Offs have got under way in Australia and for Minor Premiers Brisbane Roar the Grand Final is just 90 minutes away after enjoying a first leg win over Central Coast Mariners. In the straight knock-out phase, played between teams finishing from third to sixth in the regular season standings, Adelaide United and Gold Coast United saw off the challenges of Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory respectively.
In a game of many chances Brisbane Roar kept up their long unbeaten streak with a 2-0 win away at Central Coast Mariners. Costa Barbarouses gave the Roar the lead in the 52nd minute but the Mariners were very unlucky in their attempts to claw something back as they hit the woodwork twice before Brisbane sealed the first leg victory thanks to Matt McKay’s 73rd minute headed goal. Should Brisbane defend their lead in next week’s home second leg then they will host the 2011 Hyundai A League Grand Final for the first time in the club’s history.
WATCH CENTRAL COAST MARINERS v BRISBANE ROAR HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
In the knock-out phase of the Play-Offs two-time Australian champions Melbourne Victory were knocked out courtesy of a 90th minute Dino Djulbic goal which allowed Gold Coast United to set-up an elimination tie against Adelaide United who, in turn, were triumphant in their match against New Zealand side Wellington Phoenix. Adelaide, who finished third in the regular season standings, went through thanks to a Travis Dodd goal twenty minutes before full-time and they now look ahead to a home tie against Gold Coast next Sunday.
HYUNDAI A LEAGUE PLAY-OFFS DRAW
1. Central Coast Mariners 0-2 Brisbane Roar
2. Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners
Winners of two-legged tie through to Grand Final; losers to play winner of Match 5
3. Adelaide United 1-0 Wellington Phoenix
4. Gold Coast United 1-0 Melbourne Victory
5. Adelaide United v Gold Coast United
6. Winner Match 5 v Brisbane Roar/Central Coast Mariners