Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Banfield secure maiden title in Argentina

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on December 14, 2009

Argentina’s football championship has come up with a few surprise champions in the last few years (e.g. Estudiantes in 2006, Lanus in 2008) but the latest champion Banfield are probably the biggest surprise of them all. On the final game of Argentina’s “Apertura” (Opening) Championship they were defeated 2-0 away at Boca Juniors but this turned out not to be so tragic as, at the same time, their nearest title challengers Newell’s Old Boys were succumbing to the same scoreline at home to San Lorenzo.

On a dramatic final day in the “Apertura” (not to be confused with the “Clausura” or “Closing” championship that makes up the second half of the season) Banfield went to cross city rivals Boca knowing that a win would make them champion and a draw would at least guarantee a play-off for the title in the event of a Newell’s win in Rosario (in Argentina play-offs decide the destination of the title in the event of a tie on points between two or more teams). If Banfield lost then a Newell’s win would mean the championship going back to Rosario since their last title win in 2004.

After six minutes of the first half there were cheers around Boca’s home stadium, La Bombonera, when Banfield fans heard the news that Newell’s were 1-0 down thanks to a goal from San Lorenzo’s Fabian Bordagaray. At almost that exact moment Boca won a penalty kick which Martin Palermo dispatched with great aplomb to make it 1-0 and to stun the legions of Green and White fans who had been cheering only seconds earlier. Both games ended 1-0 at half-time and the second half would progressively get more nervous for the title contenders.

Sixteen minutes into the second half at La Bombonera saw Boca Juniors double their lead thanks to a close range strike from Martin Palermo. This goal had the fans of Banfield holding their heads in their hands in disbelief. Were their title chances going up in smoke before them? Thankfully, for Banfield, they heard more cheers nearly ten minutes later after news filtered through of a second goal for San Lorenzo. Fabian Bordagaray, like Martin Palermo, had scored his second goal of the afternoon and would become a hero for Banfield fans everywhere. This news allowed both Boca and Banfield to take their foot off the gas and see out the game. Whilst those Banfield fans lucky enough to get a ticket were getting the party started at La Bombonera there were even bigger celebrations at Banfield’s home stadium where thousands of supporters had been let in to the stadium to watch the game on a big screen.

With both games finishing in 2-0 defeats for the title contenders it was Banfield that secured the title, the very first league championship success in the club’s history, with 41 points from 19 games, Newell’s Old Boys two behind on 39 whilst Colón Santa Fe, Independiente and Velez Sarsfield all had 34 points. Banfield qualify for the 2010 Copa Libertadores along with the 2009 Clausura champions Velez, the reigning Libertadores champions Estudiantes de la Plata and the three teams who had the best points average in the Clausura and Apertura tournaments in 2009 (Lanus, Colón and Newell’s). Relegation matters will be decided after the conclusion of the 2010 Clausura championship.

LDU Quito in a Liga of their own

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on December 3, 2009
Copa Sudamericana Logo

The Copa Sudamericana is South America's version of the UEFA Europa League

Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito, better known as LDU Quito, have won the 2009 Copa Nissan Sudamericana after what became an angst-ridden 5-4 aggregate victory in a two-legged final against Brazilian giants Fluminense. This is the third continental success for the Ecuadorians after winning the 2008 Copa Libertadores (South American Champions League), again beating Fluminense, and the 2009 Recopa (a South American version of the European Super Cup) in which they defeated another Brazilian team Internacional of Porto Alegre 4-0 over two legs. It has been a meteoric rise for the club who have steadily built a good footballing side and have become the dominant force in Ecuador. Their appearance in the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup final against Manchester United made the football world take notice despite their narrow defeat to a lone Wayne Rooney strike.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for LDU this year. In the 2009 Copa Libertadores they came crashing back down to earth after the previous year’s joy of success. LDU finished bottom of their group behind Sport Recife, Palmeiras (both from Brazil) and Chilean representatives Colo Colo. Thankfully for LDU they finished second in the first stage of the Ecuador Serie A championship, thus qualifying for the Sudamericana, and from there they rediscovered their form in continental competition. After a first round 2-1 aggregate win against Libertad of Paraguay LDU then went on to beat Argentinians Lanus 5-1 (agg.) and Velez Sarsfield 3-2 (agg.) to set up a semi-final tie with Uruguay’s River Plate. A 7-0 drubbing of their opponents in the first leg meant that LDU could afford to take their foot off the gas in the second leg, which they lost 2-1. This set up a second major final with Fluminense who had overcome Paraguayans Cerro Porteno 3-1 (agg.) in their semi-final.

In the first leg of the final in Quito it was the Brazilians that struck early, Marquinho giving the visitors the lead after sixty seconds. After that though LDU dominated with Edison Mendez scoring a hat-trick before the hour mark and two late goals from Franklin Salas and Ulises de la Cruz securing a 5-1 lead to take to Rio de Janeiro. In the second leg the Ecudorians were on the defensive from early on as Dieguinho and Fred gave “Flu” a 2-0 lead at half-time. Any ideas that LDU may have had before the game of cruising this second leg were dashed even further eighteen minutes from the end when Gum made it 3-0 on the night to the Rio side. However despite the best efforts of Fluminense they couldn’t get the fourth goal necessary to take the match into extra-time (away goals not counting in this tournament) and the party could start once again in the Ecuadorian capital after LDU held out to win the final 5-4 on aggregate. LDU are now the envy of Ecuador having shown that they are in a league of their own for handling the big occasion. As a reward for this victory LDU will play Estudiantes de la Plata, the team that replaced them as Copa Libertadores champions in 2009, in the 2010 Recopa final.