Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

France: Montpellier hold on to claim maiden title

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 22, 2012

Montpellier HSC are the French champions for the very first time in their history. They needed only to draw away at bottom club Auxerre but managed to secure a 2-1 win, thanks to a brace from John Utaka  and help send their hosts down into Ligue 2 for the first time since they were promoted back in 1980. Paris Saint Germain were the only team who could hope to prevent Montpellier from winning a maiden title but despite their best efforts they had to be content with second place. Carlo Ancelotti’s men won their final day match against FC Lorient also by a 2-1 scoreline with strikes coming from Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta but it proved academic. Lorient, despite defeat, were able to survive in the top flight by the skin of their teeth finishing one point clear of SM Caen who were relegated along with Dijon and Auxerre.

France: Fans gripped by most open championship in Europe

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 26, 2010
Ligue 1 Trophy

Olympique Marseille were champions in 2009-10. Will they win it again this time?

France’s domestic championship may not contain any of the likely contenders for the UEFA Champions League this season but, as a competition, it is proving one of the more compelling races in European football at the moment. With only 10 points separating Lille OSC at the top of the table from Racing Club Lens in 19th place there isn’t much of a gap between virtually all of the teams in Ligue 1 and it is feasible that anyone who can put together a good run of wins can go on to win the championship.

The current situation is in stark contrast to most of the last ten championships in which Olympique Lyonnais were a dominant force for many of those campaigns, winning the Ligue 1 title seven years in a row from 2002-2008. In that time it was common for OL to win the league with quite a few games to spare although there was one one campaign in 2002-03 in which the top seven teams were separated by just six points at the season’s end. Things have balanced out in the last two seasons with Olympique Lyonnias losing their dominance following title wins for Girondins de Bordeaux (2008-09) and Olympique Marseille (2009-10) and the hope is there for virtually every team that the league can be just as tight as it was in 2002-03.

OK, it’s early days so perhaps I’m getting carried away. Nonetheless there is a counter argument in which people believe that a situation like the one gripping France right now shows a clear lack of quality teams. Whether that’s true or not at least the action is unpredictable unlike in most other championships in which, if you’re lucky, three teams might make a decent attempt at a title challenge. More often than not, though, it is usually a straight fight between the same two teams every year with the rest of the league lucky to be fighting it out for UEFA Europa League places – just like what has happened in countries like England, Italy and Spain in recent years.

So for now we must say vive la différence! With five matches to go before the halfway point anyone who puts together a run of three or four wins will have a good chance of establishing their title credentials in the long term. On current form it is no surprise to see that five of the six teams to have won three of their last five games – Lille OSC, Montpellier HSC, Olympique Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais and Auxerre – are in the top half of the table where the gap between those teams is only five points. Therefore anybody who can maintain such winning momentum in the games leading up to the Christmas break stands a good chance. Even in the bottom half of the league a run of three wins in five for AS Nancy has got them out of relegation trouble lifting them up to 14th place and even they are closer to the top of the table, in terms of points won, than they are to the bottom. Such is the margin for error in the league and the closeness of the competition within it that it is anybody’s guess who will be where at the end of the season.

On Matchday 15 the top match sees joint top Lille OSC travel to 7th place Girondins de Bordeaux, a win for the hosts would take them above the league leaders. Other matches include 5th place Olympique Marseille against 2nd place Montpellier HSC and Olympique Lyonnais (8th) welcome Paris Saint Germain (3rd) in one of the classic matches in the French football calendar.

Tagged with: ,

Europe: Honours won at the start of the business end of season (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 6, 2010
Coppa Italia

Internazionale secured the first part of a possible treble when beating AS Roma in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday

May is the month when most of Europe’s domestic championships and cup competitions are handed out. With this week signifying the business end of the season “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” looks at some of the titles that have been won in Europe in the last few days.

Internazionale FC are hoping to win a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League under charismatic coach Jose Mourinho this season and the Nerazzurri achieved the first part of potential history by beating AS Roma 1-0 in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday. Argentine striker Diego Milito scored the only goal after 39 minutes to give his club a psychological edge over the Roman side who are Inter’s only challengers with two games to go in the Italian championship. Check out the goal and the coach’s understated celebration to it here:

In other showpiece cup finals throughout Europe Trabzonspor secured their first domestic honour since 2004 when winning the Turkish Cup against favourites Fenerbahçe on Wednesday. “Fener”, who currently lead the way in the Turkish Süper Lig, took the lead ten minutes into the second half with a goal from Brazilian attacking midfielder Alex but Trabzonspor came back in fine style scoring three times in the last twenty five minutes. Umut restored parity after 66 minutes and Engin gave them the lead with ten minutes to go. Gustavo Colman secured the victory four minutes into stoppage time to send the Trabzonspor fans into ecstasy. In Croatia Hajduk Split strolled to victory over two legs in the Croatian Cup final against HNK Šibenik winning 4-1 on aggregate. Hajduk had narrowly won 2-1 in the first leg but made things easier for themselves in the return fixture with goals from Ante Vukušić and Senijad Ibričić to give Hajduk their fifth cup success in post-independence Croatia. Next door in Serbia Crvena Zvezda secured the first part of a possible double when defeating Vojvodina Novi Sad 3-0 in Partizan Stadium, Belgrade. Goals from Aleksandar Jevtić, Kadu and Miloš Trifunović gave the Red Star an easy win and they will hope to overturn arch-rivals Partizan in the league with three games remaining.

In Bulgaria PFC Beroe Stara Zagora secured their maiden triumph in the domestic cup thanks to a stoppage time winner from Doncho Atanasov in their 1-0 victory over Chernomorets Pomorie. On Thursday night the Dutch Cup final was won overwhelmingly by Ajax Amsterdam who have gone a little way towards making up for their narrow defeat in the Eredivisie title race to FC Twente by heavily beating their arch-rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam. Normally the Dutch Cup final is a one leg affair played at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium but was switched to a two-legged contest with no away fans allowed in either game due to the volatile nature of this fixture. In any case Martin Jol saw his Ajax team win comfortably with a 6-1 aggregate win with the first leg a fortnight ago finishing 2-0 and the return game in Rotterdam ending up 4-1. Watch the goals from the second leg here:

Three league championship titles were also decided on Wednesday with success being honoured in France, Denmark and Ukraine. Olympique Marseille, who had gone 17 years without success before this season, added the league championship trophy to their Coupe de la Ligue triumph from earlier in the season. A 3-1 home win against Stade Rennais gave l’OM an eight point cushion at the top of the table with two games to play. Gabriel Heinze got the ball rolling after just four minutes with a free-kick driven low into the bottom corner but the visitors were hoping to spoil the party and duly equalized eight minutes before the break thanks to a Jimmy Briand header. Captain Mamadou Niang restored the lead for Marseille with fifteen minutes remaining. Just sixty seconds later the title was secure when Lucho González’s long-range strike gave Olympique Marseille a 3-1 win and an insurmountable lead in Ligue 1. In Denmark FC København won their eighth SAS Superliga since their formation in 1992 with an easy 4-0 win away at bottom club HB Køge to increase their lead over second place Odense Boldklub to twelve points with three matches remaining. Finally Shakhtar Donetsk won their fifth Ukrainian Premier League title when defeating nearest challengers Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 at home thanks to Ilsinho’s 15th minute strike. The victory has given the Miners a six point lead with one match to play. See the winning goal here:

Europe: Easter Round-Up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 4, 2010
Maik Franz

Maik Franz scored the winning goal for Eintracht Frankfurt in their 3-2 home win over title-chasing Bayer Leverkusen

The European football scene is being kept on edge with many of the major leagues potentially going all the way in the hunt for the various national championships across the continent. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the Easter weekend.

FC Bayern München went into the 29th Matchday of the German Bundesliga two points behind their opponents Schalke 04 in the table but had beaten the Gelsenkirchen side in the DFB Pokal (German Cup) semi-finals recently and were determined to repeat the winning feeling. After a tight opening period the match came to life in the 25th minute when Franck Ribéry shot from distance to give Bayern the lead which was doubled only a minute later with Bayern taking advantage of some terrible defending from Rafinha allowing youngster Thomas Müller to shoot home from close-range. The league’s top scorer Kevin Kuranyi pulled one back for Schalke 04 but, try as they might, they couldn’t find an equalizer against a Bayern team playing most of the game with ten men after Hamit Altintop was sent-off just before half-time.

In the other game affecting Germany’s title race Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s chances of championship success were reduced further having lost four of their last five games. The latest setback came against an Eintracht Frankfurt side who are serious contenders for a UEFA Europa League spot after a thrilling 3-2 win over the title chasers. After Selim Teber had given Eintracht the lead from the penalty spot after 28 minutes it was Stefan Kießling who gave the visitors the lead with strikes on 33 and 46 minutes. But life is never dull in Frankfurt this season and die Adler (The Eagles) came back through an incredible long-range strike from Caio (62 mins) and an overhead kick from Maik Franz (pictured) two minutes from time to secure the three points for Eintracht who have now won their last three games whilst Bayer 04 Leverkusen now lie six points behind FC Bayern with five games to play.

In England’s Premier League the top two, Manchester United and Chelsea, faced-off at Old Trafford with the visitors seemingly unable to afford a defeat against the champions if they were to keep the title race going. United led the table by one point before the game but Chelsea were to emerge after it with a two point advantage after they became only the second team to beat United at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season with a 2-1 victory. Goals from Joe Cole and Didier Drogba, albeit a dubious one in the latter case, gave Chelsea a 2-0 lead before Federico Macheda pulled one back for the Red Devils with nine minutes left to play but there were to be no further goals and Chelsea emerged back on top of the table. Arsenal FC made hard work of their 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers with Arsène Wenger’s men scoring five minutes into second half stoppage time thanks to substitute Nicklas Bendtner allowing The Gunners to move back to within three points of Chelsea and one behind Manchester United in the table. With five matches remaining anything can happen in what is one of the most intriging title races in English football for many years.

All fixtures in Serie A were moved forward to Saturday as is traditional on Easter weekend in Italy. It was to be a good day for all the three title chasers, Internazionale FC, AS Roma, and AC Milan with each chalking up wins over Bologna, Bari and Cagliari respectively. Inter easily disposed of Bologna 3-0 thanks to goals from Thiago Motta (2) and Mario Balotelli to ensure that the Nerazzurri would remain on top for at least one week more. AS Roma had Mirko Vučinić to thank as he scored the only goal in the game away at Bari whose faint hopes at chasing a UEFA Europa League spot may just have faded with this defeat. AC Milan had a tough encounter on the island of Sardinia against a mid-table Cagliari side who were determined to make life difficult for the Rossoneri coming from behind twice in the first half before an unfortunate own goal from Davide Astori sealed the deal for AC Milan just before half-time. With six matches to play in Serie A and only three points between the top three sides this could also be an interesting year for Italian football.

FC Girondins de Bordeaux seem to be losing the plot in France’s Ligue 1 having gone down to another defeat on Saturday, this time losing 2-1 at home against AS Nancy. Youssouf Hadji and Issiar Dia secured the three points for Nancy as Bordeaux, whose solitary strike was scored by Fernando Cavenaghi, have now lost seven matches this season and have now been overtaken at the top of the standings although they do still have two games in hand. Olympique Lyonnais, who defeated FC Girondins in the Champions League earlier in the week, went top with a 2-1 away at Stade Rennais thanks to goals from Michel Bastos and Lisandro Lopez whilst Montpellier HSC also went above Bordeaux into second place having secured a point away at AS Monaco in a goalless stalemate. Olympique de Marseille, fresh from winning the Coupe de la Ligue final last weekend, moved into joint third with a 1-0 win at home to Racing Lens thanks to Brandão’s 22nd minute strike. On Sunday AJ Auxerre missed the chance to go outright top of the table when they mustered a 1-1 draw at home to Paris Saint Germain.

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona continue to set the pace in La Liga with both teams easily victorious in their Matchday 30 fixtures. FC Barcelona got the weekend off to a predictable start when disposing of the weak challenge of Athletic Bilbao by four goals to one. On Sunday Real Madrid, thanks once again to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain, went back to the top of the table after a 2-0 away win against Racing Santander. In Denmark on Thursday the top of the table clash went the way of defending champions FC København who consolidated their lead at the top of the SAS Superligæn with a 2-0 home win over nearest challengers Odense Boldklub. Goals from Dame N’Doye and Jesper Grønkjær have allowed “FCK” to move further ahead of “OB” with a four point margin separating the two sides with nine matches left to play. There was also a big clash between the top two in Belgium where RSC Anderlecht and Club Brugge shared the goals and the points with their game in the Jupiler League championship play-off group finishing in a 2-2 draw. Les Mauves maintain their eight point lead over Club Brugge with seven matches left to go in the season. Things remained the same in the Netherlands with wins for all of the top three as FC Twente beat VVV Venlo 2-0, AFC Ajax Amsterdam squeaked past Den Haag 1-0 with a 93rd minute winner from Toby Alderweireld and PSV Eindhoven defeated Willem II Tilburg thanks to a late penalty from Balázs Dzsudzsák. With four games left FC Twente lead the table four points ahead of Ajax and a point further ahead of PSV Eindhoven.

Euro Leagues Round-Up: Part 1

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 1, 2010
Danny Koevermans

Danny Koevermans scored twice for Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven in their 5-1 triumph over RKC Waalwijk

With international football taking place on Wednesday “Stoppage Time” today focuses on eight of Europe’s top leagues, with another ten tomorrow, in order to give you the latest on how each of the major championships are shaping up after this weekend’s games:

ENGLAND (1st – Chelsea 28 games played/61 points; 2nd – Man.United 28/60; 3rd – Arsenal FC 28/58)

With Manchester United in League Cup final duty on Sunday, league leaders Chelsea had a fantastic opportunity to increase their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points. However they came up against an ambitious Manchester City side who still harbour hopes of finishing in a Champions League place. Despite the build-up to the game being mainly centred on the private lives of former team-mates John Terry and Wayne Bridge the game will be remembered for an amazing City performance as they cruised their way to a 4-2 win. A goal three minutes before half-time from Frank Lampard gave Chelsea the lead but two goals each from Carlos Tévez and Craig Bellamy stunned the home side with Lampard scoring a last-minute penalty to give the scoreline some respectability. In other games Arsenal’s 3-1 win away at Stoke City was overshadowed by the broken leg sustained to Aaron Ramsey after a tackle from Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross, who left the pitch in tears after the incident following a red card. Tottenham Hotspur beat Everton 2-1 at White Hart Lane thanks to goals from Roman Pavlyuchenko and Luka Modrić whilst Liverpool beat Blackburn Rovers by the same scoreline at Anfield with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres securing three points for the Reds who are only one point behind Spurs in the quest for Champions League football next season.

NETHERLANDS (1st – PSV Eindhoven 25/65; 2nd – FC Twente 25/64; 3rd – Ajax Amsterdam 25/58)

The Eredivisie is hotting up with PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente fighting it out all the way and Ajax hanging on by their coat tails. PSV easily defeated bottom club RKC Waalwijk 5-1 at Philips Stadion with Danny Koevermans (pictured) scoring a brace. Steve McClaren’s FC Twente are not giving up, though they did struggle to a 2-1 win at home to NEC Nijmegen. Bryan Ruiz, the club’s top scorer with 17 goals, gave the home side all three points with the winning strike just five minutes from time. Ajax are finally coming into a good run of form under new coach Martin Jol and they dispatched the challenge from FC Utrecht with great ease winning 4-0. The League’s main marksman Luis Suárez bagged two goals for the Amsterdammers who have claimed 23 points in the last nine games.

FRANCE (1st – FC Girondins de Bordeaux 24/51; 2nd – Montpellier 26/51; 3rd – Olympique Lyonnais 26/49)

Ligue 1 is shaping up quite nicely as the champions FC Girondins de Bordeaux are top of the pile with six points separating them from sixth place AJ Auxerre. However the league leaders didn’t play this weekend so they still have two games in hand on nearest challengers Montpellier who beat Rennes 3-1 at home on Saturday with Joris Marveaux scoring twice. Third place Olympique Lyonnais are keeping up the challenge for their eighth title in nine years with a 2-0 defeat of Côte d’Azur outfit OGC Nice. On Sunday the whole nation’s attention turned to le Classique as Olympique de Marseille easily dispatched arch-rivals Paris Saint Germain 3-0 at the Parc des Princes thanks to goals from Hatem Ben Arfa, Lucho González and Benoît Cheyrou to send the Marseillais up to fourth while PSG linger in mid-table obscurity.

GERMANY (1st – FC Bayern München 24/52; 2nd – Bayer Leverkusen 24/50; 3rd – Schalke 04 Gelsenkirchen 24/48)

After weeks of chasing, FC Bayern are back on top of the Bundesliga after beating fourth place Hamburger SV 1-0 in the Allianz Arena thanks to a stunning strike from Franck Ribéry with twelve minutes of the game left. On Saturday Leverkusen could only manage yet another draw at home to 1.FC Köln, their eleventh in the Bundesliga this season, in a goalless stalemate. The usual jibes about “Neverkusen” are coming back to haunt the second placed team, who have recently been dubbed “Meister der Unentschieden” (‘Champions of Draws’) by one German paper. Schalke 04 beat their rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at home on Friday night in the big Ruhr derby. Benedikt Höwedes and Ivan Rakitić scored the goals for the “Null Vier”, coming from behind after Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin had given die Schwarzgelben (Yellow and Blacks) the lead from the penalty spot on 47 minutes. Werder Bremen beat 1.FSV Mainz 2-1 to consolidate sixth place whilst seventh place Eintracht Frankfurt were defeated away at their “Angstgegner” (bogey team) VfB Stuttgart, the resurgent Swabians coming from behind at the end of the first half thanks to two goals from in-form Cacau.

SPAIN (1st – FC Barcelona 24/61; 2nd – Real Madrid CF 24/59; 3rd – Valencia CF 24/46)

Lionel Messi saved Barça’s blushes with a goal six minutes from time to preserve the Blaugrana’s two point lead at the top of La Liga. Earlier on Saturday night Real Madrid had easily seen off the challenge from Tenerife on the island with a 5-1 win with two goals from Gonzalo Higuaín and a strike apiece for Ronaldo (penalty), Kaká and Raúl. This meant that los Blancos were top of the table for at least two hours during Barcelona’s home game against Malaga. After a goalless first half the Camp Nou were getting impatient following some resilient Malaga defending. Finally the deadlock was broken thanks to Pedro in the 69th minute but within twelve minutes the visitors shocked the home supporters thanks to a equalizing goal from Valdo. With nine minutes left Barça needed a saviour and, as ever, it was the Argentine wonder who stepped up to the plate tapping home from short range on 84 minutes. In other games Atletico Madrid came from behind at home to Valencia to impressively seal a 4-1 although it did help that los Che had Carlos Marchena and Miguel sent off. Two goals for Diego Forlán saw him take his season’s tally for twelve with Kun Agüero and Jurado adding one apiece for good measure. Fourth place Sevilla could only draw 0-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao.

ITALY (1st – FC Internazionale 26/58; 2nd – AC Milan 26/54; 3rd – AS Roma 26/51)

The Serie A title race seems to look over one minute and looks interesting the next. Thankfully after this weekend’s action it looks once again like the latter as AC Milan kept up the chase on local neighbours FC Internazionale with only four points separating the Milanese giants. Alexandre Pato was the star for the Rossoneri scoring twice in the first half in AC Milan’s 3-1 win against Atalanta whilst Inter were involved in a close match away at Udinese Calcio. Pepe scored for the home side after just two minutes but Inter were ahead just nineteen minutes later thanks to Mario Balotelli and Maicon. Diego Milito scored on the edge of half-time but Udinese, thanks to an Antonio de Natale penalty, pulled one back early in the second half. Mercifully for Jose Mourinho his Inter team manged to hold on for three points but they do seem to be in a battle to keep hold of lo Scudetto. Another important game took place in Naples where local side Napoli took on AS Roma in the ‘Derby of the South’. Julio Baptista (penalty) and Mirko Vučinić seemed to have won the game for Roma but the Neapolitans didn’t lie down and got their reward with goals from Germán Denis (75 minutes) and Marik Hamsik (penalty 90th min.) denying the visitors two points with the game finishing 2-2.

PORTUGAL (1st – SL Benfica 21/52; 2nd – Sporting Braga 21/51; 3rd – FC Porto 21/43)

The Liga Sagres has looked like a two-horse race for some time and this assumption was further cemented after Sporting Lisbon defeated third place FC Porto 3-0 in Sunday’s big match. The Lions, who knocked out Everton FC from the UEFA Europa League three days before, easily had the Dragons of Porto on the ropes by the 47th minute thanks to goals from Yannick (6 min.), Marat Izmailov (45th.) and Miguel Veloso (47th.) kept Sporting in fourth place in the table, a distant twenty points behind leaders Benfica. The leaders had an easy 4-0 away win at Leixoes thanks mainly to a hat-trick from Angel di Maria. This kept the Eagles one point ahead of surprise contenders Braga who went behind early at home to 13th place Olhanense but who came from behind to secure a 3-1 win with strikes from Matheus, Evaldo and Albert Meyong Ze.

SCOTLAND (1st – Glasgow Rangers 26/61; 2nd – Glasgow Celtic 27/51; 3rd – Dundee United 27/45)

The Scottish Premier League title race is all but over after a thrilling climax in yesterday’s Old Firm between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Park. After ninety goalless minutes the game was decided in stoppage time thanks to a dramatic last-ditch winner from Rangers’ Maurice Edu. The three points has all but sealed a 53rd league championship for Rangers as they currently lead the SPL with a ten point lead and a game in hand. Third place Dundee United are in pole position to challenge for a Champions League place should Celtic slip up having easily defeated Falkirk FC 3-0 but Hibernian FC aren’t far behind, just one point behind United in fourth spot, but they’ll have been disappointed to drop two points at home to St. Johnstone in a pitiful 1-1 draw.