Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

“O Timão” on top of the world leaves Chelsea feeling blue

Posted in European Football, South America Football, UK Football by peterbein on December 16, 2012

Corinthians celebrate their second FIFA Club World Cup title following their 1-0 victory over Chelsea FC

The recent European dominance in the FIFA Club World Cup came to an end today in Japan’s second city of Yokohama as Copa Libertadores champions Corinthians became world champions for the second time with a narrow 1-0 defeat of UEFA Champions League holders Chelsea FC in a final which will hardly go down as a classic but which for followers of O Timão will go down as another chapter in their famous history.

Since fellow Brazilian club Internacional of Porto Alegre won the 2006 version of the FIFA Club World Cup, South American teams had struggled in this competition with European champion clubs winning the previous five tournaments in a row including two victories for FC Barcelona (2009, 2011) and one each for AC Milan (2007), Manchester United (2008) and Internazionale (2010). Corinthians’ victory in today’s final broke the dominance and added to Brazilian football’s wonderful history in this tournament with four title wins comparing to their South American neighbours, no other nation from that particular continent providing a winner of this tournament since it changed its format in 2005.

Corinthians had won the inaugural version of this event in 2000 when a dour final, played against compatriots Vasco da Gama, was decided by a penalty shoot-out following 120 minutes of goalless action. The second title win will perhaps be more celebrated due to the fact that Chelsea FC went into the game as most pundits’ favourites to win the title. Chelsea had qualified for the final with an easy 3-1 win over North and Central American champions Monterrey CF whilst Corinthians had to work harder to overcome the challenge of African champions Al-Ahly in a semi-final which was decided by a single goal from the Brazilians’ Paolo Guerrero, whose presence would ultimately also prove influential in the final.

With twenty minutes remaining, and the game stuck at 0-0, the deadlock was finally broken when Guerrero took advantage of some confused Chelsea defending to head home from close range and spark a mass frenzy of celebration amongst the Corinthians supporters, up to 30,000 of whom are said to have made the journey to Japan to transport the spirit of their São Paulo home Pacaembu stadium to FIFA’s showpiece event.

For interim Chelsea coach Rafael Benítez, the winning coach when Internazionale won the title in 2010, today’s final was a bitter disappointment and there is no doubt that those fans who have failed to warm to him will use this as a stick to beat him with. For Corinthians’ coach Tite, however, legendary status is now assured. Having taken over the coaching role in 2010, Tite led the Paulista club to their fifth Campeonato Brasiliero title in 2011 before sealing the club’s first ever Copa Libertadores title this year following a 3-1 aggregate win over six-time South American champions Boca Juniors. With the world title now in the trophy cabinet it is fair to say that Tite will bask in the celebrations as much as those fans who travelled all that way to see their team triumph in Japan.

Euro 2012: Spain confirm dominance with historic triumph

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on July 2, 2012
Spain Euro 2012 champions

Spain won its third UEFA European Championship with a 4-0 drubbing of Italy

The Spanish national football team did what so many people expected and won the 2012 UEFA European Championship. Spain defended their European title with a 4-0 hammering of Italy with goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata and helped to create history in the process. The title triumph was Spain’s third in a row, following wins in Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first time that any national team had achieved this feat.

Quite simply it’s been a fantastic four years for coach Vicente Del Bosque who took over from Luis Aragonés following the Euro 2008 triumph in Austria/Switzerland and who has expanded on his country’s playing style whilst maintaining his players’ hunger and desire which is no mean feat when the majority of the squad play for either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid and have already enjoyed such enormous success at club and international level. The FIFA World Cup triumph two years ago in South Africa may have confirmed that they were the best team on the planet but accusations during Euro 2012 of playing boring football were swept under the carpet as Spain took apart the Italian national team in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Right from the beginning Spain took the game to Italy, helping to dismiss any accusations of boring football, and were convincingly 2-0 up at half-time before two of their substitutes, Torres and Mata, helped kill the game off in the last ten minutes of the game and help put some gloss on the achievement which has re-confirmed Spain’s status as favourites for the next FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil in two years’ time.

The Spanish, as one would expect, also enjoyed the success in the individual categories. Fernando Torres, one of six players to top score with three goals in Euro 2012, was named the Golden Boot winner as he had been on the pitch for the fewest number of minutes (189) compared to his rivals for the award. Andrés Iniesta won the Man of the Match award in last night’s final and then claimed the Player of the Tournament award whilst also being included in UEFA’S 23-man Team of the Tournament which looks thus:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Iker Casillas (Spain), Manuel Neuer (Germany)

Defence: Gerard Piqué (Spain), Fábio Coentrão (Portugal), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Pepe (Portugal), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Jordi Alba (Spain)

Midfield: Daniele De Rossi (Italy), Steven Gerrard (England), Xavi (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Sami Khedira (Germany), Sergio Busquets (Spain), Mesut Özil (Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Xabi Alonso (Spain)

Attack: Mario Balotelli (Italy), Cesc Fàbregas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden), David Silva (Spain)

UEFA: Signs promising following exciting group phase

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 20, 2012
Mario Gomez

Mario Gomez scores for Germany in their 1-0 win over Portugal and help his team to a 100% group stage record

Euro 2012 has been a fantastic tournament so far with 61 goals scored in 24 group matches and with the culmination of the group stages last night comes a quarter-final line-up which promises plenty of action in the knockout stages.

It is sad that neither of the co-host nations, Poland and Ukraine, were able to make it through to the quarter-finals. Both countries had the chance to qualify in their final group matches but they also knew that nothing less than a win would secure their places in the last eight and it subsequently proved to be a mountain to climb. Poland had drawn their opening two matches against Greece and Russia but were ultimately undone by a late Petr Jiráček strike in their final match as the Czech Republic turned their fortunes around following a poor start. Last night saw Ukraine go out at the hands of an England side who, under the management of Roy Hodgson, have failed to excite but are taking a pragmatic approach to the tournament and scraped through 1-0 in Donetsk with Wayne Rooney’s goal taking the spark out of local interest. Ukraine, nonetheless, did win their opening game against Sweden with the double strike from Andriy Shevchenko proving one of the highlights of the competition so far. Following the defeat to England Shevchenko, a European champion at club level with AC Milan in 2003, announced his retirement from international football and went out on a stage befitting his talents.

Amongst the favourites the Germans were the only team to win all three of their group matches (against Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal) and to do so in the so-called “Group of Death” proves that they are the most serious contenders to take the title from Spain. Speaking of Spain, the European champions surprised many by not playing a recognized striker in their 1-1 draw against Italy but went on to claim victories against the Republic of Ireland and Croatia, the former put to the sword in an easy 4-0 stroll but the latter unfortunate to concede very late in a 1-0 defeat. The Italians could be an outsider for the title as they remained unbeaten in the group with one win and two draws  despite having not performed anywhere near their best. If the Azzurri can get a lucky break in their quarter-final match up against England then there’s a possibility that Italy can finally win the second European title they’ve craved since winning their first in 1968.

Portugal are another team capable of causing an upset in the latter stages. Following a 1-0 defeat to Germany the 2004 finalists had to scrap their way to a 3-2 win over Denmark before they sealed their quarter-final spot with a 2-1 win over the tournament’s biggest disappointments Holland. The game against the Dutch signalled a change of form for Cristiano Ronaldo who had struggled in their opening two games but whose input proved the difference in the crucial final group match as he scored both goals in a 2-1 win. It is difficult to tell whether one should read too much into France’s 2-0 defeat to Sweden last night especially as Les Bleus looked the better team in their opening games against England and Ukraine. One player who should be of concern to supporters of the French team is Karim Benzema who has not looked like the player who scored 32 goals for Real Madrid last season. Greece, champions in 2004, are hoping to pull off another such shock but a tough quarter-final against Germany awaits them. The Greeks look to be using the same approach to guide them through this tournament, soaking up lots of pressure whilst hitting teams on the counter attack. This has meant that their performances in the group stage were topsy-turvy but somehow scored goals at crucial times and their 1-0 win over Russia meant that they finished second in the group ahead of the Russians who must be thinking what might have been and whose exit has prompted the departure of coach Dick Advocaat.

If the knockout rounds can maintain the momentum generated by the group stages then we should be in for a treat. After all there were no goalless draws in the group stages and it has been refreshing, for the most part, to see two teams in each game going out to win rather than not to lose. Obviously the stakes will be higher when the first quarter-final kicks off on Thursday night when Czech Republic plays Portugal so the tension of the occasion may incur on the attacking ambition of some teams. However, the signs are positive that the final seven games of Euro 2012 will only add to the legacy of the tournament.

QUARTER-FINALS

21/06/12 Czech Republic v Portugal

22/06/12 Germany v Greece

23/06/12 Spain v France

24/06/12 England v Italy

Spain mourns passing of Manuel Preciado

Posted in European Football by peterbein on June 7, 2012
Manuel Preciado

Manuel Preciado died aged 54

Manuel Preciado, who only yesterday signed on with Villarreal CF to become their new coach from next season, has sadly died from a heart attack today, aged 54.

Preciado was mainly associated as a player with Racing Santander but also featured for clubs such as Real Mallorca and Deportivo Alaves. His coaching career began in the mid-90s with Gimnástica de Torrelavega before returning to Racing Santander to take charge of the “B” team on two occasions before two separate spells managing the first team from 2002-03 and 2005-06. His most recent job came with Sporting de Gijón where he stayed for six years from 2006, leading them to promotion in his first season and keeping them in the top flight before they went down at the end of last season.

Stoppage Time wished to pass on its condolences at this sad time.

Europe: Latvia wins 11th Baltic Cup title

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012
Latvia Baltic Cup 2012

Latvia celebrate winning the 2012 Baltic Cup tournament

The 2012 Baltic Cup has taken place over the course of the weekend and the tournament, held in Estonia, proved to be an interesting affair. The Baltic Cup saw Finland enter the competition for the very first time to join the usual line-up of the Baltic States nations, namely Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The tournament, usually played in a mini-league format, changed into a straight knockout format and with that came three days, four games and eleven goals worth of action.

Lithuania came into this year’s Baltic Cup as the defending champions having won the previous tournament on home soil in 2010. They were paired with Latvia in the first of this year’s semi-finals with both nations hoping to become the first country to win the competition for the eleventh time. A win for either team would see that dream come one step closer to reality but the manner by which Latvia would go on to defeat their old rivals was surprising. Aleksandrs Cauņa scored the opening goal in the twelfth minute from the penalty spot and with further strikes in the first half from Edgars Gauračs and Aleksejs Višņakovs the game was as good as over at half-time. To compound the misery for Lithuania, a second goal for Gauračs in the 48th minute was followed by a late strike for Vitālijs Smirnovs as Latvia thrashed the champions by five goals to nil to ease their way into this year’s final.

The second semi-final was a much closer affair. Estonia, whose most recent tournament win came as far back as 1938, were hoping to at least reach the final but they came up against new boys Finland who were desperate to make a mark in their first Baltic Cup. A crowd of 2,400 in Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city, saw the visitors take an early two goal lead with Njazi Kuqi, lesser known brother of former Newcastle United player Shefki, bagging a brace as early as the 22nd minute. The hosts did manage to pull one back on the half hour mark through Andres Oper but, try as they might, they were unable to restore parity and the Finns were through to their first Baltic Cup final courtesy of a 2-1 victory.

Yesterday saw Estonia gain some consolation by winning the third/fourth place play-off against Lithuania. Vladimir Voskoboinikov scored the only goal of the game after 18 minutes to give the home fans something to shout about. In the final a more competitive affair saw Latvia and Finland fight out a 1-1 draw. The game was goalless at the break but the deadlock was broken on 52 minutes with Finland’s Toni Kolehmainen giving the tournament new boys the lead. Just two minutes later Latvia had equalized through the competition’s top scorer Edgars Gauračs and with no further scoring for the rest of the game the destiny of the Baltic Cup would be decided on penalties.

Both teams missed their first kicks of the shoot-out, Teemu Pukki missing for Finland whilst Aleksandrs Cauņa did likewise for Latvia. Both teams then went on to convert their next four penalties in the shoot-out, thus creating a sudden death situation. Six further spot kicks were needed but when Kolehmainen missed his kick for Finland the pressure then fell upon Latvia’s Vladislavs Kozlovs to win the game. This he did and, having won the shoout-out 6-5, Latvia could celebrate a record eleventh Baltic Cup triumph.

Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 4

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on June 3, 2012
Glasgow Celtic champions 2012

Glasgow Celtic won their 43rd league championship in Scotland this season

In the final installment of Stoppage Time – International Football Blog’s review of the season nine leagues, ranging from Spain to Turkey and Scotland to Wales, are featured to complete this 2011-12 round-up:

SCOTLAND

Scottish football has gone through some emotions in the past nine months as Glasgow Celtic won their first league championship for four years whilst their arch rivals Glasgow Rangers are facing a very different fight with the tax man as the club’s very survival is at stake. Celtic won the league title by a massive 20 points from Rangers who had been deducted ten points as a result of going into administration. Neil Lennon’s Celtic side had the chance to land a treble but lost out to Hearts of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup semi-final with the Edinburgh based club going on to beat their city rivals Hibernian FC in the final to win the competition for the eighth time. Celtic then lost out to Kilmarnock FC in the Scottish League Cup with “Killie” having won the game 1-0 in the dying minutes to claim their maiden title. Motherwell FC will replace Glasgow Rangers in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League next season. At the bottom Dunfermline Athletic go straight back down and will be replaced by Scottish First Division (2nd tier) champions Ross County.

SERBIA                                                                            

Partizan Belgrade are champions for the fifth time in a row after seeing off bitter rivals Crvena Zvezda with a twelve point margin separating the two giants of Serbian football. Crvena Zvezda won the Serbian Cup for the second time in three years following an easy 2-0 win over FK Borac Čačak. The losing cup finalists will drop into the second division next season having finished in the bottom two of the Super Liga along with Metalac Gornji Milanovac.

SLOVAKIA

MŠK Žilina won the Slovak league and cup double for the first time. The league championship was won for the sixth time with just two points separating them from runners up Spartak Trnava whilst their maiden Slovak Cup triumph came with a 3-2 extra-time win over FK Senica. With only one relegation spot in the twelve team league, bottom club Dunajska Streda find themselves going down into the second division next season.

SLOVENIA

NK Maribor won their tenth title in Slovenia finishing a massive twenty points clear of second place Olimpija Ljubljana. In the Slovenian Cup final the champions made it a double as Maribor defeated NK Celje on penalties following a 2-2 draw to claim the cup for the seventh time. At the bottom NK Nafta Lendava went down automatically to the second division with the possibility of ND Triglav Kranj joining them depending on the outcome of the end of season promotion/relegation play-off with NK Dob.

SPAIN

Real Madrid are back at the top of La Liga for the first time since 2008 as José Mourinho’s men finally got one over FC Barcelona, winning the league by nine points to seal a record extending 32nd title. FC Barcelona did gain some consolation by extending their own record of wins in the Copa del Rey to twenty six as they thrashed Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the Spanish Cup final. For Athletic Bilbao the pain of domestic cup defeat was doubled by that on the European stage as they also went down 3-0 to Atlético de Madrid in the final of the UEFA Europa League. Barcelona and Real Madrid are joined in next season’s Champions League by Valencia CF and Malaga CF but a team who started the season in Europe’s top competition will not even feature in the top flight next season. Villarreal CF surprisingly finished in the drop zone and will go down to “la Segunda” along with Sporting Gijón and Racing Santander. Deportivo de La Coruña, who went down last season, will return having won the second division title.

SWITZERLAND

FC Basel reclaimed the Swiss Super League title for a third successive season by strolling to a 21 point margin of victory over nearest challengers FC Luzern to claim their 15th championship. The top two also fought it out in the final of the Swiss Cup where FC Basel would take the honours again with penalties needed to decide the outcome following a 1-1 draw.  At the bottom of the league Neuchâtel Xamax would have their licence revoked at the beginning of the year and would not be able to see out their last 16 league games whilst FC Sion were deducted 36 points for allegedly fielding ineligible players and finished the season as the de facto bottom club. They did, however, put some gloss on the season by defeating FC Aarau 3-1 in a two-legged play-off to help preserve their place in the Super League next season.

TURKEY

There has been much controversy in Turkey this season with match-fixing scandals and allegations of corruption rife throughout the league. However there was an exciting climax to the league season with just one point separating eventual champions Galatasaray from arch rivals Fenerbahçe as the race for the Turkish Super League went to the wire. “Gala” topped the regular season with a nine point advantage but ended the season with just the solitary point keeping them apart from “Fener”, both of whom drew 0-0 against each other in the last match of the season to help Galatasaray win their 18th championship. Fenerbahçe did win some silverware just three days after the league campaign when thrashing Bursaspor 4-0 in the Turkish Cup final to win their first cup in 29 years. Samsunspor, Manisaspor and Ankaragücü all drop down into the second division next season.

UKRAINE

Shakhtar Donetsk claimed the league and cup double for the second successive season as their dominance of Ukrainian football shows no sign of waning. The Miners got the better of arch-rivals Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Premier League, winning the title by four points to take their tally of championship wins to seven. Shakhtar’s record in the Ukrainian Cup is even better having claimed their eighth win of the competition when defeating local rivals Metalurh Donetsk 2-0 in the final. At the other end of the standings Obolon Kyiv and PFC Oleksandria finished in the bottom two and will go down into the second division next season.

WALES

The New Saints have reclaimed the Welsh Premier League title. The club won its sixth championship by getting the better of outgoing champions Bangor City to the tune of five points. Third place Neath Athletic should’ve been fighting it out for a UEFA Europa League spot but the third placed club lost out when applying for FAW and UEFA licences and were forcibly relegated, thus sparing Newtown AFC from the drop this season. In the cup competitions The New Saints secured the double with a 2-0 win over second tier Cefn Druids FC whilst Afan Lido FC won the League Cup after finally seeing off the challenge of Newtown AFC in the final via a penalty shoot-out to win the cup.

Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 3

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on June 3, 2012
Ajax Amsterdam champions 2012

Ajax Amsterdam won their 31st Eredivisie title this season

In the third part of Stoppage Time’s 2011-12 season review we look at the leagues from Malta to San Marino.

MALTA

Valletta FC are the champions of Malta for the 21st time having finished top of the table in both the regular season and Championship Pool finishing eight points ahead of Hibernians FC. The latter gained some consolation in the Maltese Cup final defeating Qormi FC 3-1, thus sealing their ninth victory in the competition. Mqabba and Marsaxlokk will both suffer relegation this season after finishing in the bottom two spots of the Relegation Pool.

MOLDOVA

Sheriff Tiraspol have wrestled the Moldovan league title back from last season’s champions Dacia Chişinău. It was another close fight between the top two with Sheriff persevering with a four point margin of victory to lift their 11th league championship. FC Milsami Orhei won the cup for the first time in their history with a penalty shoot-out win over CSCA Rapid following a goalless final. The losing cup finalists will also see themselves drop down into the second division next season as they, along with FC Costuleni, finished in the bottom two.

MONTENEGRO

There was a tight contest in Montenegro where FK Budućnost Podgorica clinched their 2nd league crown by virtue of a three point gap separating them from runners up FK Rudar Pljevlja. There would be double disappointment for FK Rudar in the Montenegrin Cup final as they would suffer a 2-1 reverse at the hands of first time cup winners FK Čelik. At the bottom end of the table FK Bokelj are automatically relegated whilst FK Dečić and FK Berane have yet to feature in end of season play-offs.

NETHERLANDS

Ajax Amsterdam, under the management of Frank de Boer, won their 31st Eredivisie title finishing six points ahead of old rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam. The latter, though, would’ve been happy at their second place finish following some poor campaigns in recent years. Both teams will play in the Champions League next season whereas PSV Eindhoven will play in the Europa League following their 3-0 KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) win over Heracles Almelo. Excelsior Rotterdam finished bottom of the table and went straight down whilst De Graafschap Doetinchem also went down following an unsuccessful play-off against Den Bosch. VVV Venlo will remain in the top flight after overcoming Helmond Sport in the play-offs whilst Willem II will return after a one year absence and will bring Eerste Divisie champions FC Zwolle along for the ride.

NORTHERN IRELAND

There appears to be no stopping Linfield FC at the moment. The Belfast club notched up its 51st league title with a healthy 14 point margin separating them from Portadown FC. The club also managed to secure a double following their 42nd win in the Irish Cup, where they easily saw off Crusaders with a 4-1 victory in the final. Despite defeat in the Irish Cup final, Crusaders had a great year in knockout football and managed to get their hands on the Irish League Cup for only the second time in their history when beating Coleraine by one goal to nil whilst in the cross-border Setanta Sports Cup they saw off Republic of Ireland outfit Derry City on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the final. At the bottom of the league Carrick Rangers must drop straight back down to the second division just one season after gaining promotion to the top flight and will be replaced by Ballinamallard United.

POLAND

Śląsk Wrocław won only their second Ekstraklasa title, their first since 1977, after narrowly pipping record champions Ruch Chorzów to the title by a single point. Ruch Chorzów would also suffer in the Polish Cup at the hands of capital club Legia Warszawa who took the honours with a 3-0 win in the final, claiming the trophy for a record 15th time. ŁKS Łódź and Cracovia Krakow are the unfortunate teams who will drop down into the second tier of Polish football next season.

PORTUGAL

FC Porto are league champions once again. The club from Portugal’s second city are still hoping to become Portugal’s first club in terms of honours having won their 26th championship, now only six behind SL Benfica’s record. The Dragons finished six points ahead of Benfica with the latter having to be content with winning the League Cup for the fourth successive year with a 2-1 win over Gil Vicente in the final. Benfica’s cross-town rivals Sporting lost out in the Portuguese Cup final, going down to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Académica de Coimbra who enjoyed their second triumph in this competition. At the bottom of the table CD Feirense and União Leiria must say their goodbyes as they finished in the bottom two.

ROMANIA

CFR Cluj claimed their third league championship in five years after pipping FC Vaslui to the title by just a single point. Vaslui led the table with just two games remaining but Cluj managed to overtake them on Matchday 33 thus leaving them needing only the draw against Steaua Bucureşti, which they duly did, to clinch the title. In a fiery Romanian Cup final, Dinamo Bucureşti emerged triumphant in a 1-0 win over local rivals Rapid to lift the trophy for the 13th time. Four teams – Târgu Mureş, Voinţa Sibiu, Sportul Studenţesc and CS Mioveni – are all relegated in to the II Liga next season.

RUSSIA

Zenit Saint Petersburg  won their third Russian Premier League title with four games to spare. The gap between themselves and nearest challengers CSKA Moscow was a distant 13 points and ensured that the second city club can bask in the success of this hard-earned championship win in a season which was effectively 18 months long due to the changing of the football calendar in Russia to correspond to the autumn-spring season enjoyed by most top European leagues. Tom Tomsk and Spartak Nalchik finished in the bottom two places of the relegation group and promptly go down whilst FK Volga and FK Rostov remain in the Russian Premier League next season following play-off wins over FK Nizhny Novgorod and FC Shinnik Yaroslavl respectively. The Russian Cup was won by Rubin Kazan following a narrow 1-0 win over Dinamo Moscow in the final.

SAN MARINO

Tre Penne won the San Marino championship for the very first time having negotiated their way through the end of season play-offs. After finishing third in Group B during the regular season, Tre Penne won the rugby league style play-offs by defeating Cosmos, Faetano and last season’s champions Tre Fiori en route to defeating Libertas in the final. La Fiorita won the San Marino Cup for only the second time in their history when getting the better of Pennarossa 3-2 in the final. There is no promotion/relegation structure in San Marino.

Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 2

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on June 3, 2012
Manchester City champions 2012

Manchester City dramatically won their first English championship since 1968

In the second part of Stoppage Time’s 2011-12 Season Review we take a look at how the season finished from England to Macedonia.

ENGLAND

Manchester City captured their first league championship for 44 years in dramatic fashion. Roberto Mancini’s side turned around a 2-1 deficit at home to Queen’s Park Rangers in stoppage time to win the game 3-2 and thus seal only the club’s third ever league title on goal difference from arch rivals Manchester United. Chelsea FC, struggling under Andre Villas-Boas in the first half of the season, came back much stronger under interim coach Roberto di Matteo after the former was sacked. The Stamford Bridge club not only claimed their sixth FA Cup title, beating Liverpool FC 2-1 in the final, they also sealed European success by defeating FC Bayern München in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool FC struggled in the Premier League but reached two cup finals, losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup but winning a first trophy in six years when defeating Cardiff City to lift the League Cup. At the bottom Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers have to drop into the second tier and will be replaced by Reading FC, Southampton FC and West Ham United.

FRANCE

Montpellier HSC pulled off a remarkable league triumph this season securing their first ever title with a three point margin separating them from Paris Saint Germain. Olympique Lyonnais reached both domestic cup finals but had mixed success. They won the French Cup for the fifth time after a 1-0 win over US Quevilly but they lost out to Olympique Marseille in the League Cup final, going down by the same score line and which helped ensure that OM won the trophy for the third consecutive season. At the bottom end of the table the biggest casualty was AJ Auxerre who must face up to the anguish of relegation after a 30 year spell in the top flight. They will be joined by Caen and Dijon in Ligue 2 next season.

GEORGIA

FC Zestaponi are celebrating back-to-back wins in the Umaglesi Liga but it was a close championship race which was decided by goal difference and which saw Metallurgi Rustavi finish as runners up in such unfortunate fashion. Georgian Cup winners FC Dila Gori denied the league champions in the cup final defeating FC Zestaponi 4-1 to lift the trophy for the first time. FC Gagra Tbilisi, Guria Lanchkhuti, Spartak Tskhinvali and Mertskhali Ozurgeti will all drop down a division next season.

GERMANY

Borussia Dortmund continues to excel under Jürgen Klopp with the Schwarzgelben sealing an 8th German title. Dortmund won the Bundesliga with a record 81 points this season and sent out a statement of intent to Rekordmeister FC Bayern München who had to be content with playing second best in every competition they played this season. Not only did they lose out to Dortmund in the league, they lost to them 5-2 in the German Cup final and then lost out in dramatic fashion to Chelsea FC in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Schalke 04 and surprise package Borussia Mönchengladbach qualified for the UEFA Champions League next season along with the top two. At the bottom there are sad farewells for 1. FC Kaiserslautern, 1. FC Köln and Hertha Berlin, the latter losing out to Fortuna Düsseldorf in a play-off. Next season will see 2. Liga champions Greuther Fürth come up as well as a welcome return for traditional club Eintracht Frankfurt.

GREECE

Olympiakos sealed a record extending 39th Greek league championship with a month of the campaign remaining. Olympiakos won the title by seven points over eternal rivals Panathinaikos but the latter gained some consolation by finishing top of the post-season Champions League play-offs to help secure their place in next season’s competition. Olympiakos made a very good season even better by defeating Atromitos 2-1 in the Greek Cup final and secure yet another double for the club. At the bottom Ergotelis, Panetolikos and Doxa Drama face up to life in the second division next season.

HUNGARY

Debreceni VSC won their sixth league title thanks to an eight point margin separating them from last season’s outgoing champions Videoton FC. The champions also went on to win the Hungarian Cup in dramatic style; following a 3-3 draw in the final against MTK Budapest, Debreceni prevailed 8-7 in a penalty shoot-out to claim their sixth win in this competition. The Hungarian League Cup was won for the third time in five years by Videoton FC who defeated Kecskeméti 3-0 in the final and helped gain some revenge for last season’s Hungarian Cup final defeat. At the bottom Zalaegerszeg and Vasas Budapest will be relegated next season to be replaced by Egri FC and MTK Budapest, the latter making a welcome return following their shock relegation last season.

ISRAEL

Ironi Kiryat Shmona surprised most observers to win the Israeli league by fourteen points from the next three clubs, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Netanya. The champions also won the League Cup title for a second consecutive season with a penalty shoot-out win over Hapoel Tel Aviv who, in turn, claimed the Israeli State Cup for the third consecutive year with a 2-1 win over Maccabi Haifa. At the bottom Maccabi Petah Tikva, Hapoel Rishon LeZion and Hapoel Petah Tikva drop into the second division after finishing in the bottom three spots in the relegation play-off group.

ITALY

Juventus are back in the big time having won lo Scudetto for the first time since 2002-03. Their 28th league title came on the back of an unbeaten season (played 38, won 23, drew 15) and helped them pip outgoing champions AC Milan by four points. Another team who have recaptured trophy winning ways is SSC Napoli who won their first Coppa Italia since 1987 when defeating Juventus 2-0 in this season’s final in Rome. It proved to be a sad year for Lecce, Cesena and Novara, all of whom will play in Serie B next season and will be replaced by Pescara, Torino and one of Sampdoria or Varese who play in a two-legged play-off on June 6th and June 9th.

LIECHTENSTEIN

There is no domestic league in Liechtenstein but the national cup saw USV Eschen/Mauren finally end the dominance of FC Vaduz. The latter had won the cup in every year since 1998 with the previous three wins coming at Eschen/Mauren’s expense. But good things have to come to an end sometime and FC Vaduz’s dominance came to a close thanks to a penalty shoot-out win following a 2-2 draw. USV Eschen/Mauren, cup winners for the fifth time, will be rewarded with a place in the UEFA Europa League next season whilst FC Vaduz will continue to play their league football in the Swiss Challenge League (2nd tier).

LUXEMBOURG

F91 Dudelange won the National Division title for the seventh time in eight years but it wasn’t so easy for them this time around, claiming the title with a three point margin over record champions Jeunesse Esch. The champions also got the better of Jeunesse in the Luxembourg Cup final to help themselves to the double courtesy of a 4-2 win, helping “Diddeleng” claim their 5th win in this competition. US Hostert and US Rumelange went down automatically whilst FC Wiltz 71, who went down last season, will come back up after a one year absence following a 6-2 play-off win over Swift Hesperange.

MACEDONIA

FK Vardar Skopje claimed the Macedonian championship for the first time in eight years having cruised their way to a nine point win at the top of the table over nearest challengers Metalurg Skopje. FK Renova won their very first cup title after defeating FK Rabotnički 3-1 in the Macedonian Cup final. FK Ohrid and FK 11 Oktumvri go automatically down into the second division whilst FK Teteks Tetovo and FK Turnovo have won promotion/relegation play-off matches and will stay up next season.

Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 1

Posted in European Football by peterbein on June 3, 2012
Anderlecht champions 2012

Anderlecht won the Belgian Jupiler League in 2011-12

It is traditional at this time of year for Stoppage Time – International Football Blog to review those leagues that have finished and this year is no exception. In the first of four parts we look at ten of Europe’s top flight championships ranging from Albania to Denmark.

ALBANIA

Skënderbeu Korçë claimed back-to-back Albanian championships having seen off the challenge of Teuta Durrës, winning the title by a single point. The club came close to winning the double but lost out in the Albanian Cup final to KF Tirana who won the trophy for the 15th time following a single goal victory over the league champions. Pogradeci and Dinamo Tirana finished in the bottom two places and will drop into the second division next season.

ANDORRA

FC Lusitanos won their maiden championship by pipping nearest challengers FC Santa Coloma by a two point margin in a tightly fought contest. FC Santa Coloma did get some consolation by defeating the champions 2-0 in the Andorran Cup final to win the trophy for the ninth time in the club’s history. FC Ranger’s finished the season rock bottom with just four points accumulated from twenty games and will, thus, suffer relegation but Inter Club d’Escaldes held on to their top flight spot by defeating UE Extremenya in a two-legged play-off.

AUSTRIA

Red Bull Salzburg is back on top in the Austrian Bundesliga. Having lost out to Sturm Graz last season, Red Bull saw off the challenge of Rapid Wien to win their third title in four years by six points. The champions also managed to put the Austrian Cup in the trophy cabinet having easily seen off the challenge of defending title holders SV Ried 3-0 in the final. With only one team going down into the second division that unfortunate position fell upon bottom club Kampfenberger SV.

AZERBAIJAN

Neftchi Baku won their seventh title by four points from arch-rivals Khazar Lankaran as the club’s dominance in the league shows no signs of wilting just yet. However they were unable to make it a double as they lost out to local rivals FC Baku in the Azerbaijan Cup final, going down to a 2-0 defeat. Despite finishing in the bottom two of the league table, FK Sumgayit and Turan Tovuz have been spared from the drop as the Azerbaijan FA decided in April that no teams will be promoted from the second division this season.

BELGIUM

RSC Anderlecht are back on top in Belgium having won the league title for the 31st time in the club’s illustrious history. Their latest triumph came at the hands of eternal rivals Club Brugge having topped the table by four points after the Championship round of games had been completed. In the Belgian Cup final a single strike from Hamdi Harbaoui gave KSC Lokeren a 1-0 win over KV Kortrijk to win the trophy for the first time ever. Westerlo and St Truiden are the two clubs who will go down into the Eerste Divisie next season and will be replaced by Charleroi and Waasland Beveren.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Željezničar finished the season as league champions for the fifth time having got the better of nearest challengers Široki Brijeg with an eight point margin. The champions also defeated Široki Brijeg in the final of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Cup with a single goal from Muamer Svraka separating the two teams in the two-legged final. FK Sloboda Tuzla and FK Kozara Gradiška fall through the cellar door into the second division next season.

BULGARIA

There was a surprise champion in the Bulgarian “A PFG” this season with Ludogorets Razgrad claiming a maiden title having held off the challenge of Sofia giants CSKA with just a solitary point dividing the two teams at the top of the table. If the league title wasn’t remarkable enough then success in the Bulgarian Cup made it a sweet double after getting the better of Lokomotiv Plovdiv with a 2-1 victory also handing them a maiden triumph in this competition. At the bottom end of the table Videma Rakovski Sevlievo, Kalikara Kavarna and PFC Svetkavitsa all go down in to the “B PFG” next season.

CROATIA

Dinamo Zagreb‘s continued dominance of the Croatian Prva Liga meant a seventh straight title success for the country’s most successful club. Their 14th post-independence league title was won at a canter with a 21 point gap separating them from arch-rivals Hajduk Split. They also secured yet another double getting the better of NK Osijek in the Croatian Cup final with a 3-1 aggregate victory over two legs. With only twelve teams playing in the Prva HNL next season five teams – HNK Rijeka, NK Lučko Zagreb, HNK Šibenik, NK Karlovac and NK Varaždin – must all drop into the second division next season with NK Dugopolje coming up on their won from the second division.

CYPRUS

AEL Limassol finally won their sixth league title, their first since 1968, by holding off the challenges of both Nicosia clubs APOEL and Omonia with the margin between the champions and the capital clubs being a mere two points. Omonia Nicosia at least savoured some consolation in the Cypriot Cup final which they won for the 14th time thanks to Andre Alves’ lone strike in a 1-0 win over the league champions. Ermis Aradippou and Anagennisi Dherynia went straight down in to the second division next season whilst Aris Limassol joined them later having finished bottom of a relegation play-off mini-group..

CZECH REPUBLIC

Slovan Liberec won the Gambrinus Liga by just two points having been made to work hard for their title by nearest rivals Sparta Prague. For Slovan it was their third league title and a first since 2005-06. There was to be further disappointment for Sparta Prague in the Czech Cup with Sigma Olomouc defeating the Czech Republic’s most decorated club in the final thanks to Michal Veprek’s goal in the 46th minute. Bohemians 1905 and Viktoria Žižkov, having finished in the bottom two, are the teams who will go down into the second division next season.

DENMARK

One of the most dramatic title wins in European football came in Denmark this year. FC Nordsjælland, Danish Cup winners over the past two seasons, finally managed to add the Superliga title to the trophy cabinet. Having overtaken defending champions FC København in the penultimate round of games, FC Nordsjælland won their final game of the season 3-0 at home to AC Horsens to win their first ever league title. FC København didn’t finish the season empty-handed, however, going on to win the Danish Cup for the fifth time with a 1-0 win over AC Horsens. Odense Boldklub, second in the league last season, only avoided relegation this season finishing six points and one place above the drop zone. Lyngby BK and HB Køge face demotion to the second league next season.

Spain: Mourinho signs on at Madrid until 2016

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 22, 2012
Jose Mourinho

Mourinho has signed a contract extension at Real Madrid

José Mourinho has extended his contract at Spanish champions Real Madrid CF until 2016. The self-proclaimed “Special One”, who had initially signed until 2014, has won both La Liga and the Copa del Rey in his two seasons in charge at Madrid but the prospect of bringing a tenth European Cup to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu must have weighed heavily in his decision to stay at the club. Having won the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto (2004) and FC Internazionale (2010), Mourinho could become the first coach to win the trophy with three different clubs as a coach. This would be a significant achievement along that which he succeeded in doing this year in becoming one of only four coaches to win a league championship in four different countries.