Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Campeonato Carioca – Flamengo the team to beat

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on January 16, 2010
Flamengo

Flamengo won their third Carioca championship in a row in 2009

Fresh from winning the Campeonato Brasiliero for the first time in seventeen years in 2009 Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, more popularly known as just ‘Flamengo’, will be hoping to keep up their recent domination of the Rio State Championship (Carioca) which begins this weekend. “O Mengão” won their third consecutive state championship last year which also helped them overtake arch-rivals Fluminense in the list of overall title wins (Flamengo have 31, Fluminense 30). Flamengo hope that they can carry on from where they left off in 2009 and begin another era of success for the club, starting this weekend against little Duque de Caxias on Sunday.

The Carioca championship is divided into two stages, the “Taça Guanabara” and the “Taça Rio”. In the first stage the sixteen clubs are divided into two groups of eight teams and each team plays against the teams in their own group once only. At the end of the group stage the top two from each group will play in the semi-finals (first of each group plays against the second team in the other group) and the winners will go to the one-leg final at Estadio Maracanã. In the Taça Rio the groups remain the same but each team, rather than playing the other teams in their group, will play all of the teams from the other group once only. Similarly the top two in this tournament go into the semi-finals with the final played at the Maracanã. If the same team wins both stages of the tournament then there is no need for a two-legged play-off to decide the overall champion. In 2009 Botafogo came close to becoming overall champion in this manner. However having won the Taça Guanabara with a 3-0 win over surprise package Resende, they couldn’t quite manage to win the Taça Rio, losing to Flamengo 1-0 which forced the championship play-off. Both legs of the 2009 Carioca final finished 2-2 so the title was decided by the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Leandro Guerreiro missed Botafogo’s fourth kick in the shoot-out and this was enough for Flamengo to celebrate their 31st state championship.

The state championships may not be as important as they once were in Brazil but they still retain a place in the calendar as many fans see them as part of national footballing tradition, much the same as English football has a special place for the FA Cup. Flamengo will be optimistic of winning their 32nd tournament in 2010. Brazilian international player Vágner Love, who was being chased by German club Hamburger SV, has now opted to stay on loan in his homeland having been loaned previously to Palmeiras from his club CSKA Moscow. Love will team up with Adriano in the heart of the attack for the Rubro-Negro (Red and blacks) and will hope to add to a personal trophy cabinet that includes two Russian championships, a UEFA Cup and two Copa America titles which he won with the national team in 2004 and 2007.

Now that their national championship drought has been fulfilled can Flamengo create a new team to rival the the great side of Zico from the 1980s by capitalising on recent success? The 2010 Carioca championship will be the first place to find out.

Cissé fires “Pana” five points clear in Greece

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 7, 2010
Djibril Cisse

Djibril Cissé scored twice in Panathinaikos' 4-1 win over Ergotelis FC

The Greek Super League returned to action this week and it proved to be a welcome return for Panathinaikos who were the big winners after all the Matchday 16 games had been completed.

Already two points ahead in the championship table Panathinaikos (41 points from 16 games) came from behind to dispose of Ergotelis FC 4-1. After Ergotelis had taken a shock lead through Michail Fragulaikis, former Liverpool FC striker Djibril Cissé scored a brace, one goal in each half, and was joined on the scoresheet by Giorgos Karagounis and another ex-Liverpool player Sebastián Leto, who scored two minutes into stoppage time to complete the rout. “Pana” increased their lead in the table over champions Olympiakos to five points just hours before their main title challengers were due to play a big city derby against AEK Athens.

Olympiakos (36 points), who have won all but one of the last thirteen Greek championships (‘Pana’ breaking up the spell winning the 2004 title), played at home against the team whom they defeated to win the Greek Cup final last season in one of the greatest matches of all time (4-4 after extra-time followed by a penalty shoot out which Olympiakos won 15-14). When the home side took the lead through a controversial Avraam Papadopolous goal on 28 minutes things seemed to be going the way of Zico’s men. However the lead only lasted five minutes after Nacho Scocco equalised with a well taken strike. When the same player scored his second to give AEK the lead on 40 minutes the home fans were stunned. It is not very often that Olympiakos fans see their team lose at home but after another frustrating 45 minutes in the second half that was exactly what they were to experience for the first time this season. For AEK it could prove to be a turning point in a hitherto miserable season. The win took them up to fifth place and now they can hope to challenge for a place in Europe next season.

In the other games PAOK Thessaloniki remain third after a 1-0 home win over Panionios. Vladimir Ivic’s strike took PAOK to thirty-one points, five behind second place Olympiakos. Their arch-rivals Aris beat Atromitos 3-0 to remain fourth in the table, six points behind PAOK and one ahead of AEK. At the bottom of the league it’s looking more and more desperate for Panthrakikos (2 points from 16 games) who remain without a win after going down to a 3-1 defeat away at Iraklis. Second bottom Giannina gained a point away at Xanthi to increase the deficit between themselves and Panthrakikos to thirteen, therefore highlighting the mountain which the latter have to climb if they are to avoid relegation.

Champions League – Group Stage Round-Up: Part Two

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 10, 2009
Fiorentina v Liverpool

Gamberini (left) competes with Liverpool's Fernando Torres in Fiorentina's 2-0 win on Matchday 2

In the second half of our look at the Champions League group stage “Stoppage Time” focuses on groups E-H:

GROUP E (OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS, FIORENTINA, LIVERPOOL FC, DEBRECENI)

The biggest disappointment in this year’s competition, without any doubt, was five-time European champions Liverpool. After the opening group match against Hungarian champions Debreceni the Reds were caught short against group rivals Lyon and Fiorentina. Too many mistakes at crucial times proved Liverpool’s undoing and this was emphasized in the last minute of Matchday 6 where Alberto Gilardino was able to capitalize on a defensive error to give Fiorentina the three points needed to top the group. Lyon were impressive throughout especially in their games against Debreceni, against whom they scored eight goals without reply in two matches. Fiorentina finished top on fifteen points, two more than Lyon, whilst Liverpool have to be content with a Europa League place finishing on a dismal seven points in a group they were widely expected to qualify from. Debreceni’s maiden Champions League finished, as expected, in last place but no doubt their team would’ve enjoyed the experience.

GROUP F (FC BARCELONA, INTERNAZIONALE, RUBIN KAZAN, DYNAMO KYIV)

This was the most open group in the Champions League. All four teams harboured hopes of qualification to the Round of 16 prior to Matchday 6. In the end the big boys, FC Barcelona and Internazionale, managed to qualify but they were made to work hard for their place. Jose Mourinho’s Inter had the upper hand in their final game at home against Russian champions Rubin Kazan thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Mario Balotelli whilst European champions FC Barcelona had to come from behind to beat Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine 2-1. Goals from Xavi and Lionel Messi were sufficient for the Catalans to finish top of the group, two points clear of Inter. Rubin Kazan’s first season in the Champions League provided much drama, the 2-1 win against Barcelona in the Camp Nou was one of the highlights of the tournament so far. However they just didn’t have enough killer instinct to put the group to bed but at least they can be content with a Europa League place. For Andriy Shevchenko and his Dynamo side it’s another disappointing exit from a European campaign but they should be back next year barring a dismal second half to the domestic season in Ukraine.

GROUP G (SEVILLA CF, VfB STUTTGART, UNIREA URZICENI, GLASGOW RANGERS)

Sevilla were the clear winners of the group remaining undefeated through the campaign. Their 4-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox Park on Matchday 2 was their most convincing of the tournament thus far. The chase for second became a Matchday 6 “cup final” between VfB Stuttgart (who fired coach Markus Babbel and replaced him with Christian Gross in the weekend prior to the game) and Unirea Urziceni (coached by Chelsea legend Dan Petrescu). The German side started like a train and were 3-0 up inside eleven minutes. Despite Unirea pulling a goal back early in the second half the Germans managed to preserve their lead and the three points allowed them to overtake the Romanians into second place. Unirea go into the Europa League whilst Glasgow Rangers must swallow their pride and be hopeful that they can be back next season.

GROUP H (ARSENAL, OLYMPIAKOS, STANDARD LIEGE, AZ ALKMAAR)

Arsenal were comfortably the best team in the group and had already qualified for the Round of 16 when they went to Greece to play Olympiakos on Matchday 6. They played a young team with an average age of 21 but Arsene Wenger’s men couldn’t maintain their unbeaten record in Athens going down 1-0. Zico’s Olympiakos finished second thanks to some good results earlier in the tournament against Standard Liege and AZ Alkmaar. The third and fourth placed teams came up with some drama of their own on Matchday 6 in Belgium. Dutch champions AZ took the lead in the first half through Jeremain Lens and they held on to their advantage until five minutes into stoppage time. A free-kick was whipped in at pace and among the crowd of players in the penalty box was Standard’s goalkeeper Sinan Bolat who headed home to gain the ‘Liegeois’ a precious point and a place in the Europa League.