Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Mexico: Champions Four lead the way in Apertura (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on September 27, 2010
Cruz Azul v Monterrey

Cruz Azul (light blue shirts) and Monterrey have the best records in the Apertura after nine games

Nine matches into Mexico’s 19 game Torneo Apertura regular season and it is the quartet of teams who are currently gracing the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) who have the best records amongst all of the teams in their domestic top flight. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments.

For those unfamiliar with the make-up of Mexico’s domestic league the championship is split into two halves: Torneo Apertura (Opening Championship) and Torneo Clausura (Closing Championship). In each championship eighteen teams are split into three groups of six and every team plays each other once during the regular season. The eight teams with the best records then begin the knockout phase to decide the winner of that particular championship. At the moment the Apertura has effectively reached the halfway stage and the four teams with the best records are currently those same four involved in North and Central America’s elite club competition, reviews of which you can read about on Stoppage Time throughout the season.

Two of the CONCACAF representatives top the standings in Group 1 where Monterrey (the only team with a 100% record in the CCL) and Santos Laguna have been fighting for the leadership over the weekend. Monterrey were top going into Matchday 9 but were held to a goalless draw away at Querétaro which allowed Santos Laguna the opportunity to go to Club América and reclaim the leadership. Alas they were defeated in an exciting game by the odd goal in five as goals from Christian Benítez and Fernando Arce were not enough for Santos as they lost 3-2 with all of the goals coming in the first half. In the group standings Monterrey have 19 points from 9 games but Santos are a point behind with a game in hand.

Group 2 sees Toluca hold a narrow one point lead following their weekend victory 2-1 away at Monarcas Morelia. All of the goals came in the second half with Hugo Droguett’s 54th minute goal for the home side being sandwiched by strikes from Toluca’s Héctor Mancilla (51 mins) and Néstor Calderón (67 mins) which allowed the visitors to come away with the three points. Real San Luis had the chance to go above Toluca prematurely on Saturday night but missed out after they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away at Jaguares. Both teams went in at the break tied at 1-1 and it was a goal from Jaguares’ Carlos Ochoa midway through the second half which proved decisive. Club América, following their Sunday victory against Santos, now lie second in the group.

The team with the best record at this stage is Cruz Azul. The 2009 CCL finalists have a nine point advantage over Jaguares at the top of Group 3, this despite going down to a 2-1 defeat on Saturday away at Necaxa. Christian Giménez’s 66th minute penalty halved the deficit for Cruz Azul after Darío Gandín (13 minutes) and Nicolás Pavlovich (36 mins) had given the home side a healthy two goal cushion at half time. Unfortunately Cruz Azul were unable to find an equalizer but that shouldn’t deter the team from finding their way into the play-offs as they currently hold a 7-0-2 record after nine games and are well on course in both domestic and international competition, just like their fellow group table-toppers.

WATCH NECAXA v CRUZ AZUL GOALS HERE:

CONCACAF: Pachuca strike at the death to end Cruz Azul hopes (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 29, 2010

Pachuca CF are the CONCACAF Champions League winners for the fourth time in their history after a second half stoppage time winner from Edgar Benitez gave them a 1-0 win in the second leg of the final. Cruz Azul, who were going for a record extending sixth title, had won the first leg at home seven days earlier by two goals to one. The game was petering out into a goalless stalemate when Benitez struck from just inside the Cruz Azul penalty area to give Los Tuzos (The Gophers) the goal they craved and which sent the masses of Pachuca fans in the stadium into ecstasy. Not only does the victory give Pachuca their fourth continental title since 2002 but it also ensures their place in the FIFA Club World Cup which takes place at the end of the year in Abu Dhabi. Guillermo Rivarola, coach of the winning Pachuca side, said after the match “When we saw the ball hit the net, it was madness. There was tons of emotion. We all wanted to hug each other as the goal gave us the championship and the ticket to the Club World Cup. I really can’t describe it.”

See for yourself in the video below:

CONCACAF: Cruz Azul strike first in Champions League final (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 22, 2010
Emmanuel Villa

Emmanuel Villa scored the first goal in Cruz Azul's 2-1 victory over Pachuca in the first leg of the final

In the first leg of the all-Mexican CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday night. Cruz Azul, who are record champions in this event under its previous guise, have a slender 2-1 advantage to take into the return leg at the home of their opponents Pachuca, who are looking for a third title in four years.

La Maquina, as Cruz Azul are widely known, took advantage of some dreadful defending twenty minutes into the game when striker Emmanuel Villa seized on the ball after Pachuca defender Gregorio Torres miscontrolled it just ten yards outside his own penalty area. Villa’s run into the box resulted in Pachuca keeper Miguel Calero coming out to try and narrow the angle but Villa took his goal with great aplomb to give the Blues the lead. The home side didn’t have to wait long to extend their lead when a cross from the right side by Maxi Biancucchi was turned into his own goal by Pachuca’s Carlos Rodríguez clipping the ball past his own keeper at the near post. Pachuca did come back into the game after a nightmare start having the better of the chances as the first half progressed but without success on the scoring front.

The second half continued in much the same vein for the away side as they took the game to Cruz Azul in the hope of reducing the arrears and getting a foothold back into the game. They were finally rewarded in the 69th minute after Raúl Martínez’s cross found its way into the path of Damián Álvarez who, from the corner of the six-yard box, struck his shot low to halve the deficit, the ball just clipping the near post on its way in. Cruz Azul were finding it increasingly difficult to get a grip of the game from midfield as Pachuca tried to force an equalizer to level the tie. Cruz Azul may have had the advantage on the score sheet but they were to be at a numerical disadvantage for the last ten minutes of the game when Julio Domínguez was sent off for a foul on José Francisco Torres. Strangely it was La Maquina who found their urgency and created the most chances from that point on with Emmanuel Villa and Horacio Cervantes hitting the woodwork in the final minutes of the match. In the end Pachuca had to be grateful for a 2-1 defeat which they will hope to overturn in the second leg which takes place on Wednesday, April 28th. Will Cruz Azul be celebrating a record enhancing sixth title? Or will Pachuca maintain their recent continental dominance following title wins in 2007 and 2008?

First Leg HIGHLIGHTS: Cruz Azul 2-1 Pachuca C.F.


CONCACAF: Cruz Azul and Pachuca make Champions League final

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 8, 2010
Cruz Azul

Cruz Azul have reached their seventh CONCACAF Champions League final

It was already known that there was going to be an all-Mexican final in the CONCACAF Champions League for the second consecutive year. The suspense of the last two weeks came in finding out which of the four Mexican semi-finalists would make it to the final of North and Central America’s top club competition. After this week’s matches the lucky teams fighting it out to be continental champions in the two-legged final will be Cruz Azul and Pachuca who disposed of Pumas UNAM and Toluca respectively.

Cruz Azul, who have won this competition a record five times in its previous guise of the CONCACAF Champions Cup, have reached the final again and will want to make up for last year’s disappointment where they lost 2-0 to Atlante CF. In the first leg of this year’s semi-final a Pablo Barrera goal was all that separated the teams as Pumas went on to have the advantage for the second leg, albeit a narrow one. In the return leg los Cementeros struck back by scoring late in the first half to level the aggregate score thanks to Cristian Riveros, who took advantage of some slack defending in the box from Pumas to convert from right in front of goal. The second half remained tight until the 74th minute when Horacio Cervantes headed home from a dangerous corner kick to give Cruz Azul a 2-0 lead on the night. The floodgates were well and truly opened for the home side three minutes later when they scored a third thanks to a beautifully struck free-kick from Adrián Cortés which ended up in the top left-hand corner of the net. Rogelio Chávez and Edgar Lugo completed the rout by scoring further goals in the last six minutes of the game to give Cruz Azul a 5-1 aggregate win and a place in their seventh final.

Pachuca are the other finalists having negotiated their way past Toluca CF in what proved to be a tough semi-final. Pachuca played the first leg in Toluca but it didn’t prove such a disadvantage when their on-loan striker Darío Cvitanich was able to get on the end of a Paul Aguilar cross and go around the Toluca keeper Alfredo Talavera to turn the ball home from an acute angle to give los Tuzos (The Gophers) the lead. The home side had to wait until the 78th minute for parity to be restored when Edgar Dueñas headed home from a corner and the first leg ended in a 1-1 draw. The second leg got off to the best possible start for Pachuca who took the lead after just six minutes of the game thanks to an Edy Brambila header from five yards out, getting on the end of a beautifully delivered cross from the left by Damian Manso. Los Diablos Rojos from Toluca had a great chance to equalize not long afterwards but a cross from Carlos Esquivel found an unmarked Hector Mancilla in the six yard box with a gaping goal at his mercy but, unfortunately for him, he spurned the chance hitting it with the outside of his right foot and sending it wide. Despite this Pachuca had the better chances throughout the game and although they failed to trouble the scoresheet any further it ultimately didn’t matter as they held out to secure a 2-1 aggregate win. They now have the chance to win their third continental title in four years and fourth overall.

2009-10 CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL

1st Leg: Cruz Azul v Pachuca (21.04.10)

2nd Leg: Pachuca v Cruz Azul (28.04.10)

CONCACAF: Mexican quartet light up Champions League

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 30, 2010
CONCACAF Champions League logo

The logo for the CONCACAF Champions League

The CONCACAF Champions League, North and Central America’s footballing showpiece, has reached the last four stage and it’s an all-Mexican affair with the country’s domination of football in the region guaranteed to continue. The first legs of each tie are played on March 30-31 with the second legs being played one week later. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” highlights each pairing’s current form:

TOLUCA v PACHUCA

Both of these teams had tough ties to qualify from in the last round. Toluca defeated Guatemalans C.S.D. Comunicaciones by the odd goal in five over two legs whilst Toluca were further challenged by 2008 Major League Soccer champions Columbus Crew, finally edging past the Americans 5-4 on aggregate. Perhaps the hectic schedule has provided a major distraction for these teams as they are far from sure of a place in the play-offs of the current Mexican League. Toluca, who are at home in the first leg of the semi-finals, are third in Group 1 and find themselves eleven points behind leaders Guadalajara but their recent form is good having won the last two Mexican League games since defeating Comunicaciones; a 3-2 win over Real San Luis followed by a 1-0 triumph over Tigres. Pachuca are also finding it difficult to qualify for the Mexican League play-offs as they find themselves ten points behind group leaders Monterrey in fourth place in Group 2. At least their recent league form is decent having secured four points out of the last six against Club América (2:2) and C.A. Monarcas Morelia (1:0).

1st Leg: Toluca v Pachuca (30/03/10)

2nd Leg: Pachuca v Toluca (07/04/10)

PUMAS UNAM v CRUZ AZUL

Cruz Azul are the record champions in the tournament’s previous guise of the CONCACAF Champions Cup having won it five times. However the last of these triumphs came in 1997 and they are desperate to bring home the trophy after thirteen long years. Los Cementeros secured their semi-final place with a 4-0 aggregate win over Panama’s Arabe Unido and will hope to emulate the result achieved against Pumas UNAM in last season’s CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals which Cruz Azul won 2-0 over two legs. The Pumas are in the final four thanks to their 6-3 win over Hondurans C.D. Marathón and will hope to be the better of Cruz Azul this time around. In their last two Mexican League games since ensuring Champions League semi-final qualification Pumas have beaten Jaguares (2:0) and drawn with Real San Luis (0:0) whilst Cruz Azul have beaten Tigres (4:0) but lost to Estudiantes Tecos (1:2) in their most recent league game. In Group 3 of the Mexican championship the Pumas are in second spot three points behind Santos Laguna and one ahead of Cruz Azul so perhaps that’s a slight psychological advantage for Pumas going into this continental joust.

1st Leg: Pumas UNAM v Cruz Azul (31/03/10)

2nd Leg: Cruz Azul v Pumas UNAM (06/04/10)

CONCACAF: Mexicans showing the way in Champions League

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 19, 2010
Pachuca

Pachuca are one of four Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals

As convincing as it was predictable, four Mexican teams occupy the semi-final places in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League after defeating opponents from four different nations in the quarter-finals. These results continue the trend set in recent years where Mexican clubs have dominated the tournament and it ensures that for the fifth year in succession the trophy will go to the footballing superpower in North and Central America.

The first quarter-final was completed on Tuesday night when defending champions Pachuca overcame the challenge of Guatemalan side Comunicaciones with a 2-1 second leg victory thanks to goals from Paul Nicolás Aguilar and Luis Montes with Rolando Fonseca replying for Comunicaciones via the penalty spot. The win meant that Pachuca won 3-2 on aggregate after the first leg, played in Guatemala one week earlier, had finished 1-1. Pachuca’s semi-final opponents will be Deportivo Toluca who overcame a tough test against Major League Soccer team Columbus Crew. After the first leg had finished 2-2 this was a topsy-turvy affair with Guillermo Barros Schelotto giving The Crew the lead on the stroke of half-time with a penalty kick. Toluca equalised just two minutes into the second half thanks to another penalty, this time scored by Héctor Mancilla and then António Naélson, known simly as Sinha, scored the first of two in the 57th minute to give Toluca the lead. Schelotto restored parity for Columbus Crew on 70 minutes but, not for the first time, they couldn’t hold on as Toluca went up the other end and scored the winner thanks to Sinha’s second goal on 72 minutes.

The other all-Mexican semi-final tie will be between Cruz Azul and UNAM Pumas who both had more comfortable wins against their quarter-final opponents. Cruz Azul, who have won this tournament a joint record five times, already had a cushion of a 1-0 lead from the first leg against Panamanian side CD Arabe Unido before putting the game to the sword with an easy 3-0 return leg victory at home thanks to goals from Javier Orozco (2) and César Villaluz to complete a convincing 4-0 aggregate win. Honduran champions Club Deportivo Marathón did win their first leg against UNAM Pumas 2-0 thanks to two penalties being converted by Walter Martínez and Carlos Mejía. However the Mexicans proved in last night’s second leg that the competition is a Marathón rather than a sprint (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!) by hammering the Hondurans 6-1, including a brace apiece for Ismael Íñiguez and Francisco Palencia, therefore completing a 6-3 victory over the two legs.

SEMI-FINALS (dates to be decided)

UNAM Pumas v Cruz Azul

Deportivo Toluca v Pachuca

* – Teams on the left are at home in the first leg

CONCACAF Champions League: Quarter-Final Preview

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 9, 2010
Concacaf Champions Cup

Atlante CF captain Federico Vilar lifts the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League trophy. Who will win the 2009-10 edition?

North and Central America’s elite club competition continues after a four month break with Mexican clubs threatening to continue their dominance of the tournament. Mexican clubs account for the last four winners of the competition and with half of the remaining eight teams in the quarter-final stage coming from the regional footballing superpower the dominance is expected to continue into this year. However there are four other teams ready to challenge this recent monopoly of the tournament with one team each from the USA, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama ready to give the Mexicans a run for their money. Here is Stoppage Time’s guide to the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals:

CSD COMUNICACIONES (Guatemala) v C.F. PACHUCA (Mexico)

Pachuca will wish to continue their recent record in this tournament having been triumphant in 2002, 2007 and 2008. They are expected to get through against 1978 champions Comunicaciones who are currently second in their domestic league, but who haven’t got the strength in depth of their more illustrious opponents. In saying that Comunicaciones can take heart in the fact that Pachuca have lost four of their nine matches in the current Mexican Clausura championship campaign and the Guatemalans did rest some players this weekend ahead of tonight’s clash. In the group stage Pachuca finished top of Group A by a comfortable five point margin from Panamanian side CD Arabe Unido whilst Comunicaciones finished second in Group D four points behind UNAM Pumas from Mexico.

COLUMBUS CREW (United States) v DEPORTIVO TOLUCA (Mexico)

Columbus Crew are playing in this competition for the third time in their history and will want to get past their previous best finish of a quarter-final place in the 2003 Champions Cup (as it was then called) against Mexican side Morelia. With the new MLS season not due to start for at least another few weeks the Americans will relish all the match practice they can get. Deportivo Toluca, on the other hand, are well into the Mexican Clausura season but they, like Pachuca, haven’t set the world alight with their recent form. In the group stage the Mexicans finished top of a very tight Group B finishing two and three points ahead of Hondurans C.D. Marathón and MLS side D.C. United respectively. Columbus Crew finished a distant second in Group C eight points behind Cruz Azul.

C.D. MARATHÓN (Honduras) v PUMAS de la  UNAM (Mexico)

UNAM were three times champions of the old CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1980, 1982 and 1989 but were defeated finalists as recently as 2005. The Pumas are going well in their domestic Clausura championship group and hope that they can finally experience some continental glory for the first time in a generation. They are expected to get past their opponents who are lying eighth in the Honduran league but who have been resting players ready for the continuation of this tournament. Having won the Torneo Apertura (Opening championship) before Christmas Marathón could afford to rest on their domestic laurels. They just about qualified from Group B having beaten American capital side D.C. United by a single point in the group phase while Pumas had a slightly easier progression with a four point advantage in first place over fellow quarter-finalists Comunicaciones.

ARABE UNIDO (Panama) v CRUZ AZUL (Mexico)

Joint record champions Cruz Azul have won this tournament in its former guise of the Champions Cup five times (1969, 1970, 1971, 1996, 1997) but were losing finalists last season against Mexican rivals Atlante C.F. (see picture). Cruz Azul also qualified for the Copa Libertadores final in 2001 but were unlucky to lose to Argentinian giants Boca Juniors on penalties after the two-legged final had finished 1-1. The Mexicans were the only team in all four groups to qualify for the quarter-finals with a 100% record and are firm favourites to get through to the final four against an Arabe Unido side who currently lie sixth in a very tight domestic league only two points behind championship leaders Chepo F.C. Arabe Unido finished three points ahead of US side Houston Dynamo in second place from Group A to get to this stage.

FIFA Club World Cup preview

FIFA Club World Cup

Seven teams will fight it out in the UAE for the trophy

Love it or loathe it the FIFA Club World Cup is going to remain a staple part of the football calendar. To some observers it’s a chance to win a trophy and add more prestige to their club. To some others it’s a competition that turns up in the middle of a long hard season, getting in the way of domestic progress. Either way there will be seven teams in the United Arab Emirates from December 9-19 who will be giving everything to win the cup. Here is Stoppage Time’s guide to the participants:

FC BARCELONA – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

FC Barcelona became European champions for the third time in May after beating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome. It is surprising that a massive club such as “Barça” has never won the FIFA Club World Cup or its predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup. After twice being crowned European champions in 1992 and 2006 the Catalans have been defeated by Brazilian clubs in their attempts to be crowned the world’s best. In 1992 a São Paulo side inspired by Rai beat Barça 2-1 and then, three years ago, Internacional scored a late goal to deny Barcelona again. This time the ‘Blaugrana’ hope to make it third time lucky in this tournament and add the FIFA Club World Cup to the other five trophies they’ve won under their coach Pep Guardiola.

ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA – COPA LIBERTADORES WINNERS 2009

Estudiantes won their fourth Copa Libertadores with a 2-1 victory over two legs against Brazilian side Cruzeiro. The Argentinian side had a mixed record in the Intercontinental Cup during their heyday in the late 1960s and early 70s. Their solo victory came in 1968 after a 2-1 aggregate win over Manchester United (before 1979 the champions of Europe and South America played home and away matches to win the cup). Their next two efforts, however, ended in failure; in 1969 Milan won 4-2 on aggregate and in 1970 Feyenoord Rotterdam claimed their only world title with a 3-2 aggregate win. Can Juan Sebastián Verón emulate his father Juan Ramón’s achievements and become a world champion with his boyhood club?

ATLANTE CF – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Mexican side secured their second CONCACAF Champions League title after an all-Mexican affair with Cruz Azul ended up 2-0 after a two-legged final. Atlante’s other title win was back in 1983 when they defeated Surinam’s Robinhood FC (yes, really!) 6-1 over two legs. Atlante’s Club World Cup campaign will kick-off at the quarter-final stage against either Al Ahli or Auckland City, who meet in the first match of the competition.

POHANG STEELERS – AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The three time Asian champions have not always dominated the domestic scene in South Korea but tend to thrive in Asian club competition. After previous successes in 1997 and 1998, Pohang Steelers won a third title this year by defeating Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Tokyo’s National Stadium. Pohang will play against TP Mazembe at the quarter-final stage, the winner of which faces Estudiantes in the semi-finals.

TP MAZEMBE – CAF AFRICAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Congolese side have been African champions on three occasions after their most recent success was decided on away goals against Nigerian team Heartlands FC. After the Nigerians won the first leg 2-1 at home, Mazembe won the second leg 1-0 to secure a passage to the Middle East. A meeting with Estudiantes de la Plata awaits if they can overcome Pohang Steelers in the quarter-final.

AUCKLAND CITY – OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The New Zealanders will be participating in the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time, after their previous appearance in 2006, following their 9-4 win over Soloman Islands’ club Koloale FC in the two-legged OFC Champions League final. In 2006 Auckland City lost in the opening play-off match to Al Ahly of Egypt 2-0. Can they avoid a repeat against a similarly named Al Ahli of UAE in this year’s tournament?

AL AHLI – UAE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2009

Representing the host country in this year’s tournament, Al Ahli have never been Asian champions but are the current UAE League champions after winning the title by one point from nearest challengers Al Jazira Club. Last season’s attempt at continental glory came to an end in the group phase of the AFC Champions League competition. Will meet Atlante CF in the quarter-final if they beat Auckland City in the play-off match.