Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Greece: Olympiakos all but seal title against Pana (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 20, 2011

This weekend saw another in the series of the not-so-subtly named Derby of the Eternal Enemies between defending Greek Super League champions Panathinaikos and record champions Olympiakos. The latter were the home side and were leading the table by seven points before Saturday’s game kicked off in Piraeus, the port town just outside of the Greek capital Athens.

Olympiakos had lost the first derby of the season in October with Panathinaikos winning 2-1 to ensure that the title race would be a two-way affair between Greece’s most successful clubs. Olympiakos lost out on the 2009-10 title to their arch-rivals which was the first time in six years – and the second time in fourteen years – that the Thrylos (the Legend) had had to play second best. Seeing Panathinaikos lift the league and cup double was too much to bear for the Olympiakos faithful who, after a disastrous 2009-10 campaign in which they saw three coaches come and go, welcomed back Spaniard Ernesto Valverde to the dug out for the second time. In his previous spell as Olympiakos coach Valverde won the 2008-09 league and cup double and, having endured an unsuccessful year back in his homeland with Villarreal CF, he was more than happy to venture back to the Piraeus club for a second spell at the start of the current season.

WATCH OLYMPIAKOS FANS WELCOME THE TEAMS BEFORE THE GAME

The move looks like it will pay off for Olympiakos who, having defeated Panathinaikos on Saturday with a 2-1 home victory, now lead the Greek Super League standings by ten points with just seven games left to play. Olympiakos took the lead in the 20th minute after Kevin Mirallas broke away from the Panathinaikos wall from a free-kick to fire the ball from close range. Sebastian Leto equalized for Panathinaikos thirteen minutes after the half-time interval which cranked up the tension in the Karaiskakis Stadium and with both teams really needing the victory to help their title chances the game became frought with fouls and dirty play. However the home side were to enjoy the final say in this particular encounter after Rafik Djebbour put Olympiakos ahead in the 89th minute to seal the three points and all but secure the club’s 38th championship in the process.

WATCH MATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE

CONCACAF: Quarter-finalists decided in U17 Championship

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on February 20, 2011

CONCACAF U-17 Championship logoThe CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, used as a qualifying tournament to decide which four teams will go to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico later this year, has been whittled down to the last eight after the completion of the group stages this weekend.

In Group A Costa Rica qualified as group winners after they defeated El Salvador in the group’s final match on Friday. After Haiti had pulled out of their completing their programme due to an illness in the playing squad, both of the other two nations in the group knew they had already qualified but with the group leadership at stake both teams gave it their all. John Jairo Ruiz proved to be the main man for Costa Rica as he scored all three of his team’s goals in a 3-2 win over El Salvador. Costa Rica will face-off against Group B runners-up Panama in the quarter-finals whilst El Salvador will compete against Group B winners the United States. The Americans won both of their group games against Panama and Cuba whilst the Panamanians could only progress thanks to having a slightly better goal difference than the Cubans.

Group C saw tournament hosts Jamaica progress as group winners on goal difference. They finished the group phase with four points along with Trinidad & Tobago with Guatemala losing both of their games to the top two. Jamaica and T&T had drawn their game against each other 2-2 therefore making the margin of victory against Guatemala all important. As group winners Jamaica will meet Group D runners-up Honduras whilst T&T have a meeting against Group D winners Canada. There was a similar situation in Group D as Canada and Honduras, who had drawn their game against each other, had to rely on the margin of their victories over bottom side Barbados to decide the outcome of the group. The Canadians took the top spot after hammering the hapless Barbados side 8-0 whilst Honduras could only muster a 2-1 win.

The four teams who qualify for the semi-finals of this tournament will feature in the FIFA U-17 Championship later this year so for many of the teams left remaining the quarter-final matches take on a cup final significance of their own. Here is the draw for the last eight:

QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

Costa Rica v Panama

United States v El Salvador

Canada v Trinidad & Tobago

Jamaica v Honduras

The top two matches take place on February 22nd, the bottom two play on February 23rd. All matches to be played in Montego Bay.

 

Tagged with:

AFC: Al-Sadd and Al Ain reach Champions League

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on February 20, 2011

AFC Champions LeagueThe qualifying play-offs for the 2011 AFC Champions League have been completed this weekend and for Qatar’s Al-Sadd and Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates it has been a great weekend as they secured the final two berths in this year’s tournament.

In the West section Al-Sadd, who easily disposed of Syrian side Al-Ittihad with a 5-1 scoreline in the first play-off round, had to overcome the challenge of Indian champions Dempo SC in order to reach the group stages. This they did as strikes from Abdul Kader Keïta and Leandro secured a 2-0 win for the Doha-based side who will participate in Group B of this season’s Champions League against the likes of Esteghlal Tehran, Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr and Uzbek champions Bunyodkor FC.

In the East section Indonesian champions Sriwijaya had already got past the challenge of Thailand’s Muangthong United in the first qualifying play-off, albeit after a penalty shoot-out, but had it tough against Al Ain who swept aside their opponents with relative ease. Mohammed Haddaf gave Al-Ain the lead after quarter of an hour with Elias doubling their advantage on the stroke of half-time. Omar Abdulrahman made it 3-0 just six minutes after the break before Elias scored his second to complete the scoring sixty seconds later. Al-Ain have a difficult draw in Group F where they’ll face Nagoya Grampus Eight and Seoul FC, champions of Japan and South Korea respectively, as well as Chinese qualifiers Ghangzhou Greentown.

All of the losing teams in the play-offs  have the consolation of a place in the AFC Cup, Asian football’s second-tier competition.

Poll: Should Europa League winners gain Champions League berth?

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 16, 2011

It is a question which many have asked for a while but which UEFA seemingly wish to ignore for the time being. Nevertheless it is an important issue which surrounds the future existance of European football’s two major comeptitions. Should the winners of the UEFA Europa League gain an automatic berth into the following season’s UEFA Champions League?

Atlético de Madrid

Should Europa League winners earn a place in the following year's Champions League?

After all such a system is now in place in South America. CA Independiente, the winners of the 2010 Copa Sudamericana, were given a place in the qualifying rounds of the 2011 Copa Libertadores and saw off the challenge of Ecuadorians Deportivo Quito in order to obtain their place in Group 8 where they face compatriots Godoy Cruz, CA Peñarol and LDU Quito in the league stage. Many have argued that such a system could also work in Europe especially as many see the UEFA Europa League as a distinct second-rate tournament in which many coaches send out second string teams in order to preserve their top stars for more pressing domestic concerns. If there were to be the carrot of a UEFA Champions League place up for grabs then would it make coaches put out their strongest team every game? The likelihood is that coaches would indeed put their best team out given that, as well as a trophy, there is the future guarantee of increased prize money from participation in Europe’s top competition with the chance to compete against the very best that European football has to offer.

Independiente

Independiente gained a place in the Copa Libertadores following their Sudamericana triumph

Critics of this system will point out that the 2010 Copa Sudamericana final was fought for by two teams who were very much struggling domestically and whose league positions wouldn’t have seen them get anywhere near qualifying for the Libertadores. Brazilian side Goiás had already confirmed their relegation to the second division before the Sudamericana final kicked off against an Independiente side who finished bottom of Argentina’s Torneo Apertura. Seeing as the South American football calendar is every bit as congested as its European equivalent then coaches would be under pressure to forsake certain tournaments for the benefit of others if the short-term rewards outweigh any ideals towards long-term development.

It’s an interesting debate which Stoppage Time – International Football Blog would like to hear your views about. Vote in the box above and share your comments with our readers in the space below.

UEFA: Europa League Round of 32 preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 16, 2011

UEFA Europa League logoGreek side Aris Thessaloniki and English adversaries Manchester City have already got the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 ball rolling after playing out a dull goalless stalemate on Tuesday night. Now attention turns to the rest of the round and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the remaining ties.

There are ten previous winners of the UEFA Cup/Europa League competing in this season’s competition. The most successful of these former winners is Liverpool FC, the three-time winners will be facing a tricky tie against Czech side Sparta Prague. The Reds only have this competition left to play for as a Premier League challenge has proved beyond them this season and the club is already knocked out of both domestic cups. The most recent winners remaining in the tournament are Zenit Saint Petersburg who will be favourites in their last 32 encounter against Swiss side Young Boys Berne especially as the Russian side were the only team in the group stages to win all six of their group games. Sevilla FC, back-to-back winners in 2006 and 2007, welcome another former winner in FC Porto who are running away with their domestic title and who may be a good outside bet to win this trophy for a second time.

There is another head-to-head between two past winners in the shape of Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and Belgian side RSC Anderlecht who have both seen better days in European competition and would each relish another tilt at a European trophy. Ajax’s compatriots PSV Eindhoven have a difficult tie against French Ligue 1 leaders Lille OSC who have gained plenty of experience in this tournament in recent years and have expectations of progressing beyond the last eight which they achieved last season. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, champions in 1988, play against ambitious Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv, 2005 winners CSKA Moscow travel to Greece to face the other team from the second city, namely PAOK Thessaloniki. SSC Napoli, who won the cup for the one and only time in the days of Diego Maradona in 1989, will fight it out against Spanish side Villarreal CF. With both teams going well in their respective leagues will either risk playing a weakened side in order to rest players for the weekend?

In the other fixtures two recent losing finalists face off in the form of Glasgow Rangers (runners-up to Zenit in 2008) and Sporting Clube do Portugal (runners-up to CSKA Moscow in 2005) with the former in the midst of a tight fixture schedule caused by a mixture of bad weather and continued progress in all competitions so the latter could have a slight advantage in terms of fitness ahead of Thursday’s first leg in Scotland. Sporting’s neighbours Benfica SL, who haven’t won a European trophy since winning back-to-back European Cups with Eusebio in the 1960s, face off against a VfB Stuttgart side who are still experiencing difficulties this season in the Bundesliga lying in 17th place and in danger of relegation.

There is also a significant representation of clubs from Eastern Europe still in the tournament with the likes of Lech Poznań (v Braga), Dynamo Kyiv (v Beşiktaş), Spartak Moscow (v FC Basel), Rubin Kazan (v FC Twente) and BATE Borisov (v Paris Saint Germain) hoping to join the likes of CSKA Moscow, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Shakhtar Donetsk as winners of the event.

Tagged with:

UEFA: Champions League resumes on Tuesday

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 14, 2011

UEFA Champions League logoThe UEFA Champions League resumes this week with the first four matches of the Round of 16 stage to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday. The other four matches will see their first leg encounters kick off next week and we shall look at those games at the appropriate time. For now Stoppage Time – International Football Blog weighs up this week’s mouthwatering ties.

AC MILAN (Italy) v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (England)

Serie A leaders AC Milan will have to put their title ambitions to one side and pursue their dreams of progression in the UEFA Champions League. The Rossoneri, who have won the trophy on a remarkable seven occasions, currently enjoy a three point lead over SS Napoli in the Italian League and have a potent strikeforce consisting of former Internazionale stalwart Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as Brazilian duo Robinho and Alexandre Pato. Tottenham, on the other hand, are perhaps too far away from challenging for the English Premier League as they lie ten points behind leaders Manchester United but still harbour hopes of replicating their fourth place finish of last season. Their main outlet for goals will be Rafael Van Der Vaart but he will have to do without the assists of Gareth Bale who, having  impressed earlier this season against the blue and black half of Milan, is missing from the first leg.

ARSENAL FC (England) v FC BARCELONA (Spain)

There’s been a lot of recent history between these two sides with the Blaugrana getting the better of the North London giants on each occasion. Following on from the 2006 UEFA Champions League final and their Round of 16 clashes from last season, both these teams come into this season’s matches performing well domestically. FC Barcelona are top of Liga BBVA by five points over arch-rivals Real Madrid and will meet their only title challengers in the final of the Copa del Rey too. Arsenal FC are also in a title fight but lie in second place, four points behind Manchester United in the English Premier League, and have reached the final of the League Cup as well as being still in the FA Cup which will be played this weekend. The obvious danger man for Barcelona is Lionel Messi, who has already scored a remarkable 40 goals this season in all competitions, whilst for the Gunners a lot will rest on the shoulders of boyhood Barca fan Cesc Fabregas. A fascinating clash awaits……

AS ROMA (Italy) v SHAKHTAR DONETSK (Ukraine)

It’s not always easy to predict how a clash such as this will turn out. AS Roma, eighth in Serie A, are approaching the business end of a difficult season in which even finishing fourth for a UEFA Champions League spot next season is far from guaranteed. Shakhtar Donetsk, on the other hand, haven’t played a competitive fixture since late November as the Ukrainian Premier League, which Shakhtar leads by twelve points over eternal rivals Dynamo Kyiv, is reaching the latter stages of its winter break resuming in the first week of March. AS Roma will hope that former AC Milan striker Marco Borriello can add to his tally of four goals in this season’s competition whilst Shakhtar have a significant contingent of Brazilian players aided by top scorer Luiz Adriano to help them in their first time beyond the Champions League group stages.

VALENCIA CF (Spain) v SCHALKE 04 (Germany)

Out of the title race and domestic cup Valencia CF will be putting all of their eggs into the Champions League basket as well as fighting for a top four spot in Liga BBVA and they have potentially been helped by having one of the easier draws of the tournament. That said, Schalke 04 have improved since the resumption of the German Bundesliga after the winter break and have risen up the table to 10th and reached the DFB Pokal semi-finals where they’ll face off against record cup holders FC Bayern in March. For the Gelsenkirchen side former Real Madrid star Raul will be hoping to continue his love affair with a competition he won three times with his previous club whilst his compatriots from Valencia will be relying on the goals of Roberto Soldado and Aduriz who have scored seven of the club’s sixteen goals in the tournament so far.

Tagged with:

CONCACAF: Under-17 Championship kicks off in Jamaica

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on February 14, 2011

CONCACAF U-17 Championship logoThe year 2011 is seeing a lot of action at many levels of the game all over the world. The latest tournament to begin is the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship which takes place from today in Jamaica.

The tournament sees twelve teams split into four groups of three with the top two from each going through to the quarter-finals, at which point the tournament becomes a straight knockout. The 2009 competition played in Mexico was halted after the group stages and never completed due to the outbreak of swine flu and, thus, we have no defending champion to speak of preceeding the big kick-off. The four teams that qualify for the semi-finals will qualify automatically for the FIFA U-17 World Cup which takes place in Mexico from July this year so there is a lot depending on the early rounds of the tournament.

With the tournament finishing on February 27th there is a lot of football to cram into two weeks. Here is the draw for the group stages:

GROUP A: Costa Rica; El Salvador; Haiti

GROUP B: Cuba; Panama; United States

GROUP C: Guatemala; Jamaica; Trinidad & Tobago

GROUP D: Barbados; Canada; Honduras

Tagged with:

Australia: Brisbane Roar their way to Minor Premiership

Posted in Asian Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on February 13, 2011
Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar are Hyundai A-League premiers

The Hyundai A-League, Australia’s top flight football league, has concluded its regular season this weekend. The destiny of the Minor Premiership has been in the hands of Brisbane Roar for a few weeks already as they walked away with the regular season title by eight points from Central Coast Mariners. Now that the top six places have been decided everybody can look forward to the post-season Play-Off series in the hope of becoming Australian champions.

The undoubted success story of the season so far, Brisbane Roar have maintained their form and consistency in recent weeks even in the midst of the recent devastation that occurred in the area due to flash flooding and treacherous weather conditions which has made life difficult for everybody. Ange Postecoglou’s men won their final game of the regular season this weekend to Gold Coast United in the M1 Derby with the club reaching new heights this season. The Roar have lost only once in the 30 game regular season, that sole defeat coming in September against Melbourne Victory and the club has since gone 25 matches unbeaten which is a new Hyundai A-League record.

The rest of the weekend’s results saw Adelaide United secure third spot with a 2-1 win at home to Melbourne Victory whilst outgoing champions Sydney FC, who never really recovered from an atrocious start to the season, finished seven points outside the top six and miss out on the Play-Offs for the second time in three seasons. They ended their campaign with a 2-2 draw at expansion team Melbourne Heart who finished in a respectable eighth place in the club’s maiden season, one spot above their weekend opponents. Wellington Phoenix secured the sixth and final Play-Off place beating bottom side North Queensland Fury 3-1 in their final regular season game. Newcastle United Jets had made a recent valiant attempt at reaching the top six but fell six points short. They concluded the season in seventh place after losing 1-0 to second place Central Coast Mariners.

Brisbane can now look forward to a two-legged Qualifying semi-final against second placed Central Coast Mariners in the Play-offs, the winner of which will get home advantage in the Grand Final whilst the loser will get a second chance to reach the final in week 3 of the post-season. The teams finishing from third to sixth – namely Adelaide United, Gold Coast United, Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix – will be seeded and meet in one-leg straight knockout rounds with the one team remaining after week 2 facing off against the Qualifying round loser in week 3.

HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE PLAY-OFF DRAW

1. Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar

2. Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners

Winner goes straight to final; loser plays winners of match 5

3. Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix

4. Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory

5. Winner Match 3 v Winner Match 4

6. Brisbane Roar/Central Coast Mariners v Winner Match 5

7. Brisbane Roar/Central Coast Mariners v Winner Match 6

Tagged with: ,

CONMEBOL: Brazil take the U-20 title in South America

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on February 13, 2011

Conmebol u-20 logoThis weekend saw the completion of the South American Youth Championship and what a final match the tournament had in prospect as the top two of Uruguay and Brazil fought it out for the crown. Unfortunately, for those anticipating a closely fought contest, it proved to be a one-sided encounter.

The two most successful countries at this level in South America, Brazil and Uruguay were hoping to clinch the title with victory in their head-to-head clash on Saturday night. Both teams were already assured of their places in this year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup along with Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia who, despite finishing bottom of the six team group, were guaranteed their place due to their position as tournament hosts. As well as the FIFA U-20 event the top two had also been assured of their places in the 2012 Olympic Games so many observers wanted an open match with both teams going all out for the title.

Seven times Under-20 winners Uruguay were hoping to clinch their first title at this level for thirty years whilst the Brazilians, winners of the previous two tournaments, wanted to clinch a hat-trick and thus a record extending eleventh title overall. The game was deadlocked until five minutes before half-time when São Paulo midfielder Lucas scored twice in as many minutes to take the wind out of Uruguay’s sails. The second half turned into a procession as the ruthless Brazilians struck four more times to stun their opponents. Lucas clinched his hat-trick, Neymar sealed his position as the tournament’s top-scorer by netting twice and Danilo completed the scoring. Neymar’s nine goals in the competition have turned him into the continent’s hot property and there are bound to be many clubs chasing his signature in the coming months.

Brazil topped the final group stage table with twelve points from five matches, two more than Uruguay. Argentina and Ecuador, who also sealed berths at the FIFA U-20 event, ended up with nine and eight points respectively whilst fifth place Chile are the unlucky nation not to qualify for Colombia having finished with three points, two more than the Colombians themselves.

Ireland: Cross-Border tournament to begin sixth edition

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on February 12, 2011

Setanta Sports CupThe sixth edition of the all-Ireland Setanta Sports Cup, named after the Irish sports station, kicks off on Monday with an expanded tournament and a different format. Twelve teams will compete, six from Northern Ireland’s Carling Premiership and six from the Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland, with four of those teams – Crusaders, Glentoran, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers – given a bye into the quarter-finals.

At the beginning of the tournament the clubs from Northern Ireland are well into their domestic season with every team having played nearly thirty games of the Premiership campaign. At the time of writing Linfield FC lead the Carling Premiership by ten points from Crusaders and appear to be the team most equipped from Northern Ireland to take the honours in the cross-border competition. Linfield, far and away the most decorated team from Northern Ireland, were the inaugural winners of this event in 2005 and will hope to begin this campaign with a victory over Dundalk in the first round. Traditionally this competition favours the clubs from the Republic of Ireland who have won each of the four tournaments played since 2006. Current champions Bohemians FC of Dublin, who defeated local neighbours Saint Patrick’s Athletic in last season’s final, begin the defence of their title with a tie against a struggling Portadown side on February 21st but they, like all sides from the south of the Emerald Isle, have yet to fulfil a fixture in their own domestic championship which doesn’t begin until March 4th.

Instead of group stages, the tournament is now embracing a straight knockout system with each round consisting of two legs until the final which will be played as a single match in May.

SETANTA SPORTS CUP – 1st Round Draw

Linfield FC v Dundalk

University College Dublin v Lisburn Distillery

Bohemians v Portadown

Cliftonville v St Patrick’s Athletic

The top two fixtures to be played on February 14th and 28th. The bottom two fixtures to be played on February 21st and March 1st.