• Sunday, 31 May 2009

    Play-off mayhem

    In the Netherlands, there are three play-off finals today. In the Europa League play-off, NAC and Groningen are locked at 1-1 after the first leg after Fouad Idabdelhay grabbed a late, late, late equaliser for NAC responding to Danny Holla's opener.
    In the relegation play-offs, there are two finals, seeing as there are two Eredivisie places up for grabs. Both the Eredivisie clubs are involved, De Graafschap 2-0 down to RKC Waalwijk after beaing beaten away from home on Thursday. Distant Snoyl and Fred Benson got the goals, but De Graafschap will be looking to better form at De Vijverberg to see them through. Roda drew away from home 0-0 with SC Cambuur Leeuwarden and it's all to play for this afternoon.

    In Germany's relegation play-off, Energie completely left their closing Bundesliga form behind them in going down 3-0 at home to FC Nurnberg. Isaac Bokaye got two and Christian Eigler the other and they'll start favourites in front of their own fans today.

    In Poland, Arka finished third from bottom and face Bielsko Biala in the play-offs while Widzwew Łódz and Zaglebie Lubin go straight up to replace Cracovia and Górnik. Any seasoned watcher of Polish football will know, however, that results on the field are only ever half (at best) of the story.

    Le roi est mort. Vive le roi. Ligue 1 reviews

    Grenoble 0-1 Sochaux
    Nantes 2-1 Auxerre
    Lille 3-2 Nancy
    Toulouse 0-0 Lyon
    Lorient 1-1 Le Mans
    PSG 0-0 Monaco
    Marseille 4-0 Rennes
    St Etienne 4-0 Valenciennes
    Nice 0-0 Le Havre
    Caen 0-1 Bordeaux

    In the end it all became about Caen, at the top just as much at the bottom. Franck Dumas' side frustrated Bordeaux for long periods in a first half that remained goalless. That would have done for Laurent Blanc, especially as Marseille were similarly being held at home by Rennes. Within four minutes of the restart, Yoan Gouffran had put Les Girondins ahead while Marseille were going goal crazy in the Vélodrome. Bakari Koné and Mamadou Niang struck within minutes of one another to put Marseille two up and an unfortunate own goal from the keeper Nicolas Douchez made it three. Niang added a fourth, but it wouldn't matter anything unless Caen could score two and they piled forward in the second half, rattling Bordeaux on a number of occasions.

    Caen needed to do it for themselves as well as St Etienne were in the process of thrashing Valenciennes at the Geoffroy-Guichard. 1-0 up at half time through Aruajo Ilan, Bafetimbi Gomis grabbed two after the break and Kevin Mirallas wrapped things up, but if Caen got ahead, they'd still be down. Steve Savidan will surely be highly sought after in the off-season and he didn't deserve to be on the losing side, but Caen just could not find a way through the Bordeaux defence where Souleymane Diawara was magnificent and, despite some late fisticuffs when Caen keeper Vincent Plante took exception to some Gregory Sertic time-wasting, the game rather fizzled out with the dawning realisation of the inevitable. Bordeaux are champions. Caen are down.

    Joining Caen in Ligue 2 are Le Havre, who finished with a goalless draw down in Nice and a P45 for Frederic Hantz, and Nantes. Les Canaris were down barring a miracle, but won anyway, ending Auxerre's six-game winning run in the process. Ivan Klasnic - surely another one too good for Ligue 2 - put them ahead early only for Jeremy Berthod to pull them back. Mamadou Bagayoko grabbed a winner on the hour. Too little, far too late. Those three will be replaced by Ligue 2 champions Lens and promoted Montpellier and Boulogne.

    Lyon were already safe in third - the final Champions League spot - and they were held by Toulouse at the Municipal despite John Mensah's first half dismissal. PSG also failed to muster a goal in a drab game against Monaco which left Toulouse to claim fourth and the Europa League place. PSG miss out as Lille beat Nancy to go ahead of the Parisians on goal difference and claim fifth and qualification for the Europa League as Bordeaux's league cup win opened up another spot. Robert Vittek and Adil Rami put Lille into an early 2-0 lead, but Nancy pegged them back through Abdeslam Ouaddou and Youssouf Hadji. Had it remained like that, PSG would have snatched fifth, but Nicolas Plestan came up with a winner 15 minutes from time. Ligue 2 Guingamp, French Cup winners, are the other qualifiers. That's just salt into the wound for outgoing PSG boss Paul Le Guen who could well be on his way to Monaco to replace the departing Ricardo.

    Caen's result meant that Le Mans and Sochaux were safe whatever, but both picked up points. Sochaux won courtesy of a Mevlut Erding goal up in Grenoble while Le Mans drew 1-1 having led through Thorstein Helstad at Lorient, but Michael Ciani squared it up before the break.

    The monopoly has finally been broken. The trophy leaves Stade Gerland for the first time since 2001 and into the Chaban-Delmas for the first time since 1999. Bordeaux failed to lose a single home game this season, which goes some way to explaining why they won it. Lyon were poor in front of their own fans, while Marseille lost four times at the Vélodrome. When Fernando Cavenaghi got injured, many wondered how they'd cope. Simple: other folk took up the burden, most notably Marouane Chamakh. Their ability to turn losing situations into wins was remarkable as well, especially a crazy game at the Stade Louis II. They were more consistent too. After losing heavily at Toulouse, they responded by winning nine on the reel while Marseille, PSG and Toulouse would all lose games after big wins. Their failure in Europe will have hurt, but this young side is growing, very much in the mould of it's creator Laurent Blanc who, despite Yoann Gourcuff's genius, is very much the star of this Ligue 1 season.

    The Euroballs Ligue 1 team of the season, in the now traditional 4-3-3:
    Hugo Lloris (Lyon); Mauro Cetto (Toulouse), Marc Planus (Bordeaux), Souleymane Diawara (Bordeaux), Taye Taiwo (Marseille); Stephane Sessegnon (PSG), Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Benoit Cheyrou (Marseille); Ireneusz Jelen (Auxerre), André-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Karim Benzema (Lyon).
    Honourable mentions to: Cedric Carasso (Toulouse), Eden Hazard, Michel Bastos (both Lille), Ludo Giuly, Guillaume Hoarau (both PSG), Marouane Chamakh (Bordeaux) among others.

    There's plenty of wheeling and dealing to be done in the off-season and we'll try to keep on top of it.

    Friday, 29 May 2009

    Ligue 1 week 38

    Lille v Nancy
    Toulouse v Lyon
    Lorient v Le Mans
    PSG v Monaco
    Marseille Rennes
    St Etienne v Valenciennes
    Nice v Le Havre
    Caen v Bordeaux
    Grenoble v Sochaux
    Nantes v Auxerre

    As Bordeaux stare down the barrel of a league title, what better preparation than finalising the signing, on a four-year deal, of undoubted player of the season Yoann Gourcuff? Well they have and that's a massive boost to the club as they seek the point they need against Caen to seal their first title for ten years. Caen need to at least match St Etienne's result to stay up and send Les Verts, who are at home to Valenciennes, down. How VA approach this game is they key. They're safe, but their coach, Antoine Kombouaré, has just been announced as moving to PSG. Do they send hom out on a high or, having worked so hard to rescue a seemingly impossible position, is the cue in the rack? Either way, St Etienne would probably prefer to be playing VA than Bordeaux this week. Nantes have to beat Auxerre by a cricket score to stand any chance of staying up. Let's face it: they're gone. It could yet be Le Mans or Sochaux that join Nancy and Le Havre in Ligue 2. Le Mans have a short trip to Lorient and Sochaux are up in the Alps in Grenoble. For either to be sucked in, both St Etienne and Caen need to win. Should that happen, then Marseille suddenly come back into the title frame. They need to beat Rennes at the Vélodrome by any margin and hope Caen do them a favour.

    Lyon bid farewell to Juninho after eight star-studded years. Not a bad return, seven titles in eight years, but his powers have been on the wane for a while. He's off to the Middle East to rake in a decent pension and, after scoring his 100th goal for Les Gones, he goes with everybody's best wishes. Lyon will finish third and they're away at Toulouse who currently occupy fourth and the Europa League place. It should be a decent, open game and André-Pierre Gignac should see himself crowned as top goal-scorer. PSG are level with Toulouse on points and sign off at home to Monaco and they'll fancy their chances of European football in a season that's rather tailed off a little. Nice face Le Havre in a game with absolutely bugger all riding on it, though Nice can celebrate Loic Rémy's international call-up by beating the hapless Le Havre.

    Copa Libertadores Quarter Final 1st Legs

    FC Caracas 1-1 Grêmio
    Cruzeiro 2-1 São Paulo
    Defensor Sporting 0-1 Estudiantes
    Palmeiras 1-1 Nacional

    Caracas and Grêmio go into next weeks second leg all square after a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Olímpico. Caracas got the perfect start when Gabriel Cichero headed the hosts ahead with 2 minutes on the clock. Grêmio hit back and went close twice before Fabio Santos was left unmarked at the back post and he headed home to level things up. Brazilian Champions São Paulo's poor run continued at the Mineirão as they were beaten by Cruzeiro. Leonardo Silva heading the home side ahead from a corner on the stroke of half time. São Paulo levelled 11 minutes into the second half after Cruzeiro keeper Fabio fumbled a shot and Washington was on hand to turn sharply and level things. Kléber was then denied a penalty but in the 65th minute a shot from substitute Ze Carlos was too hot for Denis to handle in the São Paulo goal and Cruzeiro took a one goal lead into the second leg.

    A 12th minute goal from Leandro Desábato was enough to give Estudiantes victory over Defensor Sporting in the first game in Montevideo on Thursday night. Both teams finished with 10 players when Jorge Curbelo of Defensor and Marcos Angeleri were sent off in the 25th minutes after both appearing to kick out at each other. Both will now miss the return legs in La Plata next week. It finished all square as Palmeiras and Nacional met at the Palestra Itália. Diego Souza put the hosts ahead in the 56th minute after a pretty poor effort from Nacional keeper Sebastian Coates but the hosts were rocked when Santiago Garcia was left unmarked in the box and he equalised 9 minutes from time. Nacional will though be without Roberto Brum in the second leg after he was dismissed for a second bookable offence in injury time.

    Tuesday, 26 May 2009

    La Liga Round 37 Review: Top 2 lose again

    Villarreal 3 - 1 Valencia
    Barcelona 0 - 1 Osasuna
    Sevilla 1 - 0 Deportivo La Coruña
    Getafe 1 - 0 Numancia
    Recreativo Huelva 0 - 1 Racing
    Real Valladolid 1 - 2 Sporting Gijón
    Málaga 1 - 1 Real Betis
    Almería 0 - 3 Espanyol
    Athletic Bilbao 1 - 4 Atlético Madrid
    Real Madrid 1 - 3 Mallorca

    With the Champions League final approaching, Pep Guardiola fielded another second string for the visit of Osasuna and the Pamplona club came away with a potentially vital victory courtesy of a first-half Walter Pandiani goal, meaning they keep pace with Sporting Gijon who somewhat unsurprisingly beat Valladolid who on current form are possibly the worst football team in the entire world.

    Real Madrid are playing like losers also, letting Mallorca thump them on their own patch. After Higuain gave the home side the lead, Mallorca stunned the hosts with three second half goals, from Juan Arango, the surprisingly good Cleber Santana and an absolutely fantastic individual strike from Alhassane Keita to round it off. Mallorca, having looked down and out at Christmas, are now 9th, and I for one am chuffed about that.

    Sevilla remain third after a very, very late Diego Perotti goal was enough to beat Deportivo. Sevilla will have third spot nailed on if they beat already-relegated Numancia on the final day. Numancia lost at Getafe, Roberto Soldado scoring for the third week running and repaying the faith Getafe put in Michel to get them out of trouble. Recreativo will join Numancia in the Segunda after a Nikola Zigic goal (who else?) for Racing beat them at home.

    Diego Forlan, probably the best player in the world right now (You think I exaggerate? I think not) scored a hat-trick to defeat Athletic Bilbao, who are safe from the drop despite a truly miserable run of form. Atletico have Almeria in their final game and a win would make certain their fourth place ahead of Villarreal, who beat Valencia after Joseba Llorente (2) and Cani scored at the Madrigal to mean Valencia can no longer aim for a top 4 spot and must now face the bleak financial situation that brings.

    The final round of fixtures goes thus:

    Saturday 30 May:
    Mallorca v Villarreal
    Deportivo La Coruña v Barcelona
    Atlético Madrid v Almería
    Valencia v Athletic Bilbao

    Sunday 31 May:
    Numancia v Sevilla
    Espanyol v Málaga
    Osasuna v Real Madrid
    Racing Santander v Getafe
    Sporting Gijón v Recreativo Huelva
    Real Betis v Real Valladolid

    Serie A Round 37 Review: Maldini swansong turns sour

    Chievo Verona 0 - 0 Bologna
    Lecce 1 - 1 Fiorentina
    Torino 2 - 3 Genoa
    Cagliari 2 - 1 Inter Milan
    Siena 0 - 3 Juventus
    Catania 3 - 1 Napoli
    Atalanta Bergamo 2 - 2 Palermo
    AC Milan 2 - 3 AS Roma
    Sampdoria 2 - 2 Udinese

    It was supposed to be so perfect; The home ground farewall of one of AC Milan's most loyal servants, the end of a glittering 25-year career for Paolo Maldini. Unfortunately, it didn't work out quite as planned, firstly because the Rossoneri, in keeping with their sub-par season, suffered stage fright, and secondly with some sections of the crowd displaying derogatory banners of Maldini, rebuking him for criticism of fans made earlier in the year. Maldini was visibly annoyed afterwards. Things got off to a bad start when John Arne Riise gave Roma, the visitors, the lead, before Ambrosini drew Milan level with 15 minutes to go. Substitute Jeremy Menez then produced a smart finish to set up a thrilling finale - first Ambrosini equalised within a minute, then got himself sent off. Amidst the chaos, Francesco Totti popped up with a superb free kick to win the match and spoil Milan's big day.

    That result means Milan are just above Juventus on goal difference after the Gobbini, fresh under new management, coasted past Siena. Del Piero scored twice either side of a Claudio Marchisio goal that keeps Juve in the hunt for second. Juventus fans have also been boosted by today's news that they have completed the protracted signing of Brazilian playmaker Diego for 24 million euros.

    Inter have of course already secured the Scudetto so their defeat at Cagliari, who are out of the European running, meant little in the scheme of things. Ibrahimovic gave the nerazzuri an early lead before Robert Acquafresca, still technically an Inter player, and Andrea Cossu scored in the second half for a victory for the Sardinians who can congratulate themselves on a successful season.

    Fiorentina drew 1-1 at Lecce, a result that sees the Southerners slip back into Serie B. Lecce thought they had bought themselves a stay of execution when Simone Tribocchi scored after 50 minutes but a late Martin Jorgensen equaliser dashed their survival hopes and kept Fiorentina in that 4th spot, where they will remain barring an insane final day. Genoa beat Torino to cement their UEFA Cup spot, Diego Milito scoring twice and Ruben Oliveira also getting on the scoresheet.

    So, Lecce and Reggina are down but Torino can still save themselves, seperated as they are just by goal difference from Bologna. Chievo are now safe after drawing with Bologna at the weekend.

    Superliga Round 30 Review: Belenenses fall

    Leixões 1 - 0 Maritimo
    Vitoria Guimaraes 3 - 2 Academica
    Benfica 3 - 1 OS Belenenses
    Paços de Ferreira 1 - 0 CD Trofense
    Naval 2 - 2 Vitoria Setubal
    Rio Ave 2 - 1 Estrela Amadora
    FC Porto 1 - 1 Sporting Braga
    Sporting CP 3 - 1 Nacional

    After Trofense were all but mathematically confirmed as down (sealed this week with defeat at Pacos), Belenenses joined them after Benfica emerged victorious from the season's final game at the Estadio da Luz, thus ending a 10-year stay in the top division. Oscar Cardozo, Felipe Bastos and Mantorras all got on the scoresheet for the hosts, cancelling out Silas's early opener for O Belem. Belensenses kept just four clean sheets all season and won only once away from home - relegation form if ever there was.

    Setubal escaped thanks to a draw at Naval. After Marcelinho gave Naval the lead, Bruno Gama and then Brazilian Auri grabbed Vitoria the lead, only for subsitute Marinho to equalise late on. For Setubal, goals were their problem and for a side not long ago in European competition, it completes a real slide for them. Rio Ave, who not so long ago looked doomed, completed a remarkable turnaround with 4 wins in their last 6 matches, including the weekend's victory over Amadora thanks to goals from Edson and Livramento.

    Up top, all the positions had really been decided prior to the final round of matches. Champions Porto ended the league campaign with a home draw to Sporting Braga, with Edimar cancelling out Ernesto Farias's opener (his 10th of the season). Benfica's win kept them in third, while Sporting were indebted to Derlei (2 goals) and a Romangoli penalty to beat Nacional, for whom Nene bagged his 20th of the season. Nacional join Benfica and Braga in the UEFA Cup, while Leixoes, whose season badly fell away after Christmas, and the likes of Maritimo, who lost their last six matches, and Academica, miss out.

    The Euroballs Superliga team of the season is thus:

    Eduardo (Braga); Anderson Polga (Sporting), Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Sidnei (Benfica); Raul Meirelles (FC Porto), Ruben Micael (Nacional), Bruno Braga (Leixoes), Pereirinha (Sporting) Nene (Nacional), Liedson (Sporting), Oscar Cardozo (Benfica)

    Honourable mentions: Helton (FC Porto), Bruno Gama (Vitoria Setubal), William (Pacos), Lisandro Lopez (FC Porto), Angel Di Maria (Benfica), Aly Cissokho (FC Porto), Albert Meyong (Sporting Braga), Papa Diawara (Maritimo), Lito, Nuno Piloto (Academica)

    Monday, 25 May 2009

    Campeonato Brasiliero Série A Week 3

    Corinthians 2-1 Barueri
    Goiás 0-1 Internacional
    Cruzeiro 2-0 Vitória
    Grêmio 2-0 Botafogo
    Atlético Paranaense 2-3 Náutico
    Fluminense 1-4 Santos
    Palmeiras 0-0 São Paulo
    Sport Recife 2-3 Atlético Mineiro
    Avaí 2-2 Coritiba
    Santo André 1-2 Flamengo

    Two promoted clubs clashed at the Pacaembu and Corinthians picked up their first win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Barueri without Rolando. Internacional kept their 100% record with victory away at Goiás, Taison with the goal 13 minutes from time. Cruzeiro warmed up for their upcoming Libertadores clash with São Paulo with a 2-0 victory over Vitória. Two Kléber strikes within 6 first half minutes the difference between the sides.

    Botafogo fell to their first defeat of the season, going down 2-0 to Grêmio with the goals coming from Jonas and Fabio Santos. Atlético Paranaense dropped to the bottom of the table after surrendering a two goal advantage against Náutico. Wallyson's two strikes sent Atlético into half with with a two goal advantage, but the visitors fought back and were level 10 minutes into the second half before Anderson Lessa's second goal 6 minutes from time stole all 3 points. Despite falling behind only 9 minutes into the game, Santos picked up their first win with a comfortable 4-1 success over 9 man Fluminense. Kléber Pereira with 2 late strikes for Santos. Ahead of their Libertadores quarter finals this week Palmeiras and São Paulo drew 0-0 at the Palestra Italia. Both teams though finished the game with ten men. Atlético Mineiro climbed to third after a 3-2 away at Sport. They made hard work of it though, after going 3 up before half time they had to batton down the hatches to fend of a fightback from Sport. Coritiba climbed off the bottom and picked up their first point of the season with a 2-2 draw at Avaí. After taking the lead through Muriui Avaí fell behind to strikes from Hugo and Marcelinho before Ricardinho gave the promoted club their third successive draw. And finally, two strikes from Josiel were enough to give Flamengo their first win of the season at Santo André. Ricardo Conceicao with a reply for the home side.

    Sunday, 24 May 2009

    Eredivisie play-offs

    In the Europa League play-offs, there were big wins for NAC and Groningen in the semi-finals, both hitting seven past their opponents over the two legs. NAC went to De Kuip and stuck four past a shellshocked Feyenoord in the first leg. Rob Penders got the first in the first half before three more went in in the second from Martijn Reuser, Kees Kwakman and Joonas Kolkka. With a mountain to climb in the return leg, Penders made it five on aggregate and Donny Gorter's penalty made Feyenoord's task impossible. Roy Makaay and Jon Dahl Tomasson scored penalties of their own either side of Matthew Amoah's third on the night and even the late dismissal of Tom van der Letge could spoil the NAC party.

    Markus Berg was Groningen's hero with five goals in the tie. He bagged the first and third of the opening leg with Goran Lovre and Tim Matavz getting the others as his side opened up a 4-0 lead on Utrecht. He went one better in the return, scoring three equalisers as it finished 3-3 on the night. Tim Cornelisse, Leroy George and Morten Skoubo all put Utrecht ahead, but Berg pegged them back each time.

    The final is over two legs as well, the first on Thursday in Breda and the return on the following Sunday.

    In the relegation play-offs, MVV and Dordrecht emerged from the first round only to be seen off immediately by De Graafschap and Roda respectively in the second. RKC Waalwijk and SC Cambur Leeurwarden also progressed, against Excelsior and Zwolle respectively, to make up the final four to contest those last two Eredivisie places for next season.

    Advantage Bordeaux: Ligue 1 reviews

    Valenciennes 2-1 PSG
    Sochaux 2-1 Nantes
    Lyon 3-1 Caen
    Nancy 1-2 Marseille
    Bordeaux 1-0 Monaco
    Rennes 3-1 Lorient
    Le Havre 0-1 Lille
    Nice 0-2 Toulouse
    Auxerre 1-0 St Etienne
    Le Mans 1-1 Grenoble

    With one round of fixtures remaining, it's advantage Bordeaux in Ligue 1. Their win at home to Monaco, courtesy of Marouane Chamakh's free header, leaves them three points clear at the top and they face lowly Caen in the final round of fixtures. Monaco finished with ten men with Lukman Haruna sent off late on. Marseille also won to give them hope of overhauling Laurent Blanc's side, but they have the tougher assignment next week, at home to Rennes. Laurent Bonnart and Brandao gave them a two goal lead at Nancy for whom Landry N'Guemo got a late consolation. Just one goal separates Marseille and Bordeaux in terms of their goal difference, so Marseille need to beat Rennes by two and hope Caen can pull off an unlikely victory.

    The Normandy side might just need that unlikely win in order to stay alive in Ligue 1. They remain out of the relegation zone on goal difference alone after their 3-1 defeat in Lyon. Juninho's first half penalty put Les Gones ahead and Sidney Govou made it two after the break. Sambou Yatabaré pulled one back, but Karim Benzema wrapped it up late on. St Etienne are the ones level on points with Caen, but 14 goals worse off. They went down in Auxerre to yet another Ireneusz Jelen winner as Les Verts got caught in possession deep in their own half. Nantes are down. Three points off the two sides immediately above them, they're six goals worse off than St Etienne and 16 worse than Caen. They lost to Sochaux who pull themselves to within a point of safety. Mevlut Erding and Rabiu Afolabi put Sochaux ahead and held on despite Mamadou Bagayoko's second half penalty. Le Mans remain in trouble despite snatching a point at home to Grenoble through Anthony Le Tallec after Paulo André's own goal put the Alpine club ahead.

    Toulouse move back into fourth and the Europa League place with a 2-0 win at Nice, André-Pierre Gignac getting his 23rd and 24th goals of the season. They leapfrog PSG on goal difference who went down to Valenciennes despite leading through Mateja Kezman early on. Two quickfire goals in the second half from Johan Audel and Gregory Pujol snatched the points. Rennes won the local derby 3-1 against Lorient to remain just two points behind Toulouse as do Lille, 1-0 winners over already-relegated Le Havre, Michel Bastos with the only goal of the game.

    Goal happy Wolves seal title: Bundesliga reviews

    Schalke 2-3 Hoffenheim
    Bayern 2-1 Stuttgart
    Wolfsburg 5-1 Bremen
    Arminia 2-2 Hannover
    Energie 3-0 Leverkusen
    Cologne 1-1 Bochum
    Karlsruhe 4-0 Hertha
    Monchengladbach 1-1 Dortmund
    Eintracht 2-3 Hamburg

    Another goal spree from Wolfsburg sealed their first ever championship in grand style as Bremen were brushed aside at the VW-Arena. For the first time ever, a side finishes with two players over 20 goals for the season with Grafite on 28 and Edin Dzeko on 26 and that goes most of the way to explain why Wolfsburg are now champions. Architect in chief has been Zvjezdan Misimovic and he got the first on what amounted to Wolfsburg's first attack. Grafite doubled the lead ten minutes later and it was another Grafite inspired attack that ended with Sebastien Prodl putting through his own net. Diego pulled one back on the half hour, but that front pairing grabbed one each after the break, Grafite heading in a free-kick and Dzeko meeting Christian Gentner's cross at the back post, sparking wild scenes. The trouble now is whether this side will stay together. Felix Magath departs the coaching role (and CEO, and sporting director) for Schalke and Grafite and Dzeko are among Europe's hottest properties and are sure to attract interest. The side is in danger of breaking up before they can fully enjoy the spoils of victory.

    Bayern did their bit by beating Stuttgart at home in the hope that Bremen could do them a favour. Khalid Boulahrouz put past his own keeper to give the Bavarians the lead and Mark van Bommel made it two before Mario Gomez struck his 24th of the season in consolation. Bayern finish second and Stuttgart third, in the Champions League qualifiers.

    Energie pulled out of the bottom two and automatic relegation with a 3-0 win over Leverkusen. Goalless approaching half time, Artur Vidal was sent off just before the break and Cottbus rallied in the second period. Emil Jula got two, either side of one from Stiven Rivic and Ervin Skela had time to miss a penalty before the end. That rendered Karlsruhe's astonishing 4-0 win over Hertha almost irrelevant. They're down despite rolling over the Berliners through Sebastien Freis, Maik Franz and two from Joshua Kennedy. Arminia will join them in Bundesliga 2 despite getting off to a flier at home to Hannover. Mario Eggimann put through his own net in the second minute, but Jiri Stajner equalised and Sergio Pinto put Hannover ahead with five minutes left. Artur Wichniarek equalised in the last minute, but it wasn't enough and Arminia go down. Hertha finish fourth and will play Europa League football next season. They'll be joined by Hamburg who won in Frankfurt. David Jarolim and Ivica Olic, in his last game for the club, gave Martin Jol's side a two-goal lead, but Alexander Meier and Caio squared it up with two goals in as many minutes around the hour mark. Piotr Trochowski snatched it in the last minute.

    A point for Gladbach sees them safe, Danté giving them the lead before Jakub Blaszczykowski equalised and Bochum also finish safe also thanks to a draw. Diego Klimovic put them ahead at Cologne before Antar Yahia's own goal levelled it half way through the first half. Schalke ended their miserable season with another defeat in front of their own fans as Hoffenheim led early before coming from behind to snatch a win that sees them finish seventh in their debut season in the top flight. Demba Ba put the Villagers ahead, but Mladen Krstajic and Jefferson Farfan ensured Schalke would turn around in front. The second half belonged to Carlos Eduardo as he first equalised five minutes after the restart and snatched all three points with a last minute penalty.

    The Euroballs Bundesliga team of the season, in a 4-3-3 style:
    Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg); Andreas Beck (Hoffenheim), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), Neven Subotic (Dortmund), Phillip Lahm (Bayern); Franck Ribéry (Bayern), Zvejzdan Misimovic (Wolfsburg), Sejad Salihovic (Hoffenheim); Grafite (Wolfsburg), Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg), Mario Gomez (Stuttgart).
    With apologies to Markus Miller (Karlsruhe), Patrick Helmes (Leverkusen), Marcell Jansen (Hamburg), Marko Marin (Gladbach), Thomas Hitzlsperger (Stuttgart), Vedad Ibsevic (Hoffenheim).

    It's been one heck of a season, thrilling to the last. More next time please.

    Saturday, 23 May 2009

    Ligue 1 week 37

    Valenciennes v PSG
    Sochaux v Nantes
    Lyon v Caen
    Nancy v Marseille
    Bordeaux v Monaco
    Rennes v Lorient
    Le Havre v Lille
    Nice v Toulouse
    Auxerre v St Etienne
    Le Mans v Grenoble

    Bordeaux can wrap up the title this week with a win over Monaco and few would bet against them getting it. Trouble is, with Marseille at struggling Nancy, it looks like going down to the final round of fixtures in a week's time. Lyon are safe in third and Champions League qualification, but it's been a disappointing season for the long reigning champions. They host Caen this week in what looks a straightforward game despite Caen's desperate need for points. They pulled out of the bottom three last week, but their position remains precarious.

    Le Havre are gone already and Lille, their opponents this week, have little to play for. Nantes and Sochaux face off in the big game down at the bottom. A draw helps neither, but it'd be a massive boost for St Etienne who have a tough task at Auxerre who have found form, albeit too late for a tilt at Europe. Le Mans have been sucked into it and they need points at home to Grenoble. Valenciennes need a point for safety and they face PSG who are reported to have snapped up VA coach Antoine Kombouare to replace Paul Le Guen. PSG are an infuriatingly inconsistent side, but look good for the Europa League next season.

    Toulouse have fallen away, but still have the league's leading goal scorer in André-Pierre Gignac and that might well be enough to see off Nice. And finally, there's a mid-table local derby as Lorient go to the Stade de la Route de Lorient in Rennes.

    Bundesliga week 34

    Wolfsburg v Bremen
    Arminia v Hannover
    Energie v Leverkusen
    Cologne v Bochum
    Karlsruhe v Hertha
    Monchengladbach v Dortmund
    Eintracht v Hamburg
    Schalke v Hoffenheim
    Bayern v Stuttgart

    It's the last round of matches in Germany where a point might well be enough for Wolfsburg to clinch their first ever title. They welcome UEFA Cup finalists Bremen to the VW-Arena with Thomas Schaaf getting a good look at the side he's tipped to be taking charge of next season. How Bremen bounce back from their extra time defeat in midweek may not even matter, so well have the Wolves been playing of late. Edin Dzeko is on fire and challenging his partner in crime Grafite for the golden boot. Should Wolfsburg go down, all eyes will be on the Allianz where Bayern face Stuttgart. A draw here and Wolfsburg are champions no matter what. Should this game produce a winner - and form suggests it'll be Stuttgart rather than Bayern - then there needs to be a swing of at least seven goals should Wolfsburg draw. Basically, it's Wolfsburg's to lose.

    Karlsruhe will be down if they fail to beat Hertha and that may not be enough depending on other results. Arminia look most likely to get a result, at home to Hannover, of the current bottom three with Energie welcoming Leverkusen to the Freundschaft. Gladbach are all but out of it and it's a good job too as they face in form Dortmund, albeit at home. Bochum are safe and have nothing to play for against Cologne and neither do Eintracht who have bored their way to safety who welcome Hamburg to the CommerzbankArena. Hamburg need a win to stand a chance of European football next season and all signs point to them getting it.

    Resurgent Hoffenheim finish their debut season in the top flight at home to Schalke and it speaks volumes for how far they've come to say that it's been a bit of a disappointment. Leaders at christmas, they tailed off badly as injuries to the small squad kicked in. How might they have done had Vedad Ibsevic, 17 goals before the winter break, not done his cruciate? It's a moot point, but the club will learn from their experiences this year and come back better for it. In Ralf Rangnick, they have the future of coaching. If he's backed in the transfer market, and Dietmar Hopp has said as much, they'll be challengers again next season.

    Friday, 22 May 2009

    Copa Libertadores Round Up

    Boca Juniors 0-1 Defensor Sporting
    Defensor win 4-1 on points

    Finally the round of 16 is completed in the Copa Libertadores and it finished with the shock exit of Boca Juniors to Defensor Sporting of Montevideo. Diego de Souza with a smart turn in the box before blasting the ball past Roberto Abbondanzieri on 28 minutes to give Defensor a last 8 tie against Estudiantes.

    Revised last 8 draw (ties to be played May 20 and May 27)

    Caracas v Grêmio
    Defensor Sporting v Estudiantes
    Palmeiras v Nacional
    Cruzeiro v São Paulo

    Top Goal Scorers (after Round of 16)

    7 - Jorge Núñez (Club Nacional)
    7 - Rodrigo Teixeira (Deportivo Cuenca)
    6 - Keirrison (Palmeiras)
    6 - Darío Figueroa (FC Caracas)

    Wednesday, 20 May 2009

    La Liga Round 36: Barcelona crowned champs

    Osasuna 0 - 0 Sevilla
    Deportivo La Coruña 1 - 1 Getafe
    Villarreal 3 - 2 Real Madrid
    Numancia 1 - 0 Recreativo Huelva
    Racing Santander 3 - 2 Real Valladolid
    Sporting Gijón 2 - 1 Málaga
    Real Betis 2 - 0 Almería
    Espanyol 1 - 0 Athletic Bilbao
    Mallorca 2 - 1 Barcelona
    Atlético Madrid 1 - 0 Valencia

    So that is that, with Real Madrid losing at Villarreal on Saturday night nothing could stop Barcelona becoming champions. Real were in predictably inconsistent form in Castellon, falling behind early to a Robert Pires header from a lovely Ariel Ibagaza cross. Rafael Van Der Vaart, a candidate for Most Unsuccessful Signing of the Season, equalised just after the restart before Cani's close range strike regained the Yellow Submarine the lead. Gonzalo Higuain then looked to have rescued a point for Juande Ramos's men with two minues left only for Joan Capdevilla to capitalise on an Iker Casillas spillage to wrap up a potentially vital 3 points for Villarreal who are now two points off 4th and level with Valencia.

    With Arsene Wenger set to rebuff Florentino Perez's overtures for a third time this week, Perez and his underling Jorge Valdano are likely to turn their attention to Manuel Pellegrini who is highly regarded for the job he has done with Villarreal. Juande Ramos, having lost two El Clasicos, is likely to find himself without a job and could yet make his way south to link up with Atletico, who are also interested in Quique Sanchez Flores who is likely to be fired by Benfica. So watch this space.

    That meant that Pep Guardiola could relax and field a weakened side in the Balearics, and despite going ahead through Samuel Eto'o's 29th of the season, Mallorca came away with all three points after Juan Arango struck a superb free kick and Cleber Santana grabbed the winner in the second half. Barcelona are worthy champions and are sweating on the fitness of Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry ahead of their potentially treble-making match in Rome next week.

    Sevilla were held at Osasuna, who are now back in the relegation mire having gone winless in six and scored just one goal in their last four games. Sevilla look to have third place still secure despite their recent poor form, although it may not be enough to safeguard Manolo Jiminez's job. Atletico Madrid moved into fourth after a nervy 1-0 victory over Valencia at the Calderon, courtesy of a Diego Forlan penalty. Contrary to the opinions aired on Revista this week, this reporter believes Valencia had two goals CORRECTLY chalked off for offside. Atletico may yet, against all the odds, finish in the top four despite having one of the leakiest defences in Western Europe.

    Deportivo are still very much in the UEFA cup mix at least (its probably a stretch for them to make top 4 now) but they were disappointed to be held at home to Getafe. Roberto Soldado scored his 12th of the season to give the visitors the lead before Riki pounced for the equaliser. Malaga, meanwhile, suffered a shock defeat to Sporting Gijon (their first win in 9) after goals from Autet and a Helder Rosario own goal. Real Betis upset the odds by beating in-form Almeria thanks to goals from Mark Gonzalez and Arzu; Racing had Nikola Zigic to thank for their win over Valladolid, he scored after Valladolid had taken a 2-1 lead only for Jonatan Perreira to equalise.

    Numancia dramatically increased their survival prospects, leapfrogging weekend opponents Recreativo in the process thanks to a controverisal penalty from Jose Barkero after a foul on Brit that looked outside the box. Recre were incensed and they are now 4 points from safety with two games left. Espanyol continued their great form beating Athletic at the Montjuic.

    Tuesday, 19 May 2009

    Bordeaux in pole: Ligue 1 reviews

    Caen 2-0 Sochaux
    St Etienne 2-2 Toulouse
    Grenoble 0-0 Nancy
    Monaco 1-1 Valenciennes
    Lorient 1-1 Le Havre
    Bordeaux 3-2 Le Mans
    PSG 1-2 Auxerre
    Nantes 1-1 Rennes
    Lille 1-1 Nice
    Marseille 1-3 Lyon

    Lyon are not taking the loss of their crown lightly and are determined to have their say in who succeeds them. Karim Benzema scored a 30th minute penalty against the run of play to give Lyon the lead and he added a second before the break. Marseille pegged one back through Sylvain Wiltord with ten minutes to go, but Juninho's long range free-kick sealed the win. That meant Bordeaux ended the weekend with the initiative after labouring to a 3-2 win over Le Mans. Anthony Le Tallec put the nothern side ahead, but Bordeaux went ahead through Marouane Chamakh and Yoann Gourcuff, who is in talks regarding extending his stay at the club. Le Tallec squared the game up once again, but Marc Planus was johnny-on-the-spot to turn in a winner quarter of an hour from time.

    PSG lost ground on Lyon in the race for Champions League football, going down to Auxerre. Ibrahima Camara's penalty gave Auxerre the lead before that man Ireneusz Jelen grabbed a spectacular second which rendered Stephane Sessegnon's late goal mere consolation. Toulouse also dropped points, away at St Etienne. Les Verts really needed all three and were 2-1 ahead with two minutes to go after Bayal Sall's opener and Aruajo Ilan's penalty which restored the lead after Moussa Sissoko's equaliser. But it was André-Pierre Gignac who popped up with a late goal to snatch a point.

    Le Havre's misery is finally over. They're down following a 1-1 draw at Lorient, for whom a point is all but useless. Mamadou Diallo put Le Havre ahead, but Marama Vahirua's free-kick denied them even the chance of going down fighting. Nantes also drew, at home to Rennes, and remain in the relegation places. Again, it was the side down at the bottom who led, Mamadou Bagayoko putting Nantes ahead, but Moussa Sow denied them all three points seven minutes from time. The big winners at the bottom were Caen for whom Steve Savidan got both goals against Sochaux who they exchange place with. Valenciennes aren't quite safe yet following their draw with Monaco, John Audel equalising after Park Chu-Young put the Monagasques ahead.

    In mid-table, Lille and Nice fought out a 1-1 draw, Yohan Cabaye equalising for Lille who preserve a tremendous home record after Anthony Modeste's opener and Grenoble and Nancy failed to muster a goal between them.

    Wolves put one hand on the shield: Bundesliga reviews

    Dortmund 6-0 Arminia
    Stuttgart 2-0 Energie
    Leverkusen 5-0 Monchengladbach
    Hertha 0-0 Schalke
    Hoffenheim 2-2 Bayern
    Bochum 2-0 Eintracht
    Hamburg 0-1 Cologne
    Bremen 1-3 Karlsruhe
    Hannover 0-5 Wolfsburg

    Wolfsburg's demolition job on Hannover put them in pole position for the championship. Edin Dzeko fired a hat-trick, started by this toaster, and Grafite got the other two as Hannover rolled over to have their tummies tickled. They were abject, but they're safe. Dzeko took his tally for the season to 25 and Grafite 26 (from just 24 starts) and all of Europe are eyeing up them and the architect-in-chief, Zvejzdan Misimovic, as the side is already in danger of falling apart before they've even made it to the Champions League group stages following Felix Magath's announcement of his departure.

    That leaves the Wolves two clear of Bayern with one game to go after Bayern were held at Hoffenheim. Franck Ribéry put the Bavarians ahead, turning in a rebound after Timo Hildebrand could only parry a tame shot. Demba Ba equalised and Carlos Eduardo was on hand to put the Villagers ahead after Ba struck a post with a header. Before half-time, some Ribéry trickery laid on a goal for Luca Toni. Stuttgart are level on points with Bayern, albeit seven goals worse off, after another win, 2-0 against Cottbus. Crucially, though, Bayern and Stuttgart play each other in the final week. Tomas Hitzlsperger got them off the mark here with one of those free-kicks that comes swirling in and misses everybody before nestling in the far corner, making the keeper look a right charlie, and Cacau wrapped it up with a neat finish as Mario Gomez turned provider for a change. Hertha are out of it though. Although three points off Wolfsburg, their paltry goal difference of 11 means they'll have to win by more than 20 next week to stand a chance following a drab 0-0 against Schalke. The Gelsenkirchen side came to frustrate, though few sides in the league are better at that than Hertha themselves. Their aim in the final week will be to take advantage of any slip by Bayern and/or Stuttgart to take a Champions League place.

    Despite shipping five goals, Gladbach are just about safe. Stefan Kiessling, Patrick Helmes, a stunner from Gonzalo Castro, Michael Kadlec and a comedy own goal from Danté did for them, but defeats for Energie and Arminia leave them three points clear and with a goal difference better by four. Arminia dispensed with the services of manager Michael Frontzeck after their 6-0 humiliation at Dortmund. The avalanche only started two minutes before the break through Sebastien Kehl, but they ran riot in the second half with Tamas Hajnal, Nelson Valdez, a second for Kehl and late goals from Tinga and Mohamed Zidan wrapping it up. Karlsruhe gave themselves a chance of escaping automatic relegation, though they will finish in the bottom three, by beating Werder Bremen. This waqs not a good way for Bremen to warm up for the UEFA Cup final as Lars Stindl got two and Alexander Iashvili the third as Karlsruhe ran into a shock lead which only Hugo Almeida's late consolation spoiled.

    Bochum made themselves safe by beating Eintracht thanks to Vahid Hashemian and Diego Klimovic and Hamburg are outsiders for any sort of European football after losing to Cologne, Fabrice Ehret's early goal enough to see off the early season pace setters.

    Serie A Round 36 Review: Inter seal Scudetto

    AS Roma 4 - 3 Catania
    Udinese 2 - 1 AC Milan
    Juventus 2 - 2 Atalanta
    Reggina 2 - 1 Cagliari
    Genoa 2 - 2 Chievo Verona
    Palermo 2 - 0 Lazio
    Bologna 2 - 1 Lecce
    Fiorentina 1 - 0 Sampdoria
    Napoli 1 - 2 Torino
    Inter Milan 3 - 0 Siena

    AC Milan's defeat at Udinese, thanks to goals from Gaetano D'Agostino (10 for the season) and Cristiano Zapata was enough to hand Inter the title before their easy win over Siena. No-one has been able to match the Nerazzuri's power and consistency this season and it seems fitting that three of their best players this season - Esteban Cambiasso, Mario Balotelli and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic - should get on the scoresheet. Inter are deserving champions but there is still plenty of rumour abound that Jose Mourinho will quit the San Siro after just one season.

    One manager who has already left his post is Claudio Rainieri, the tinkerman fired after a 2-2 draw at home to Atalanta that proved to be the final straw for the Juventus board, who had seen him go 8 matches without a win. All the action at the Olimpico was in the first half - after Cigarini had given Atalanta the lead, Juve replied with goals from Zanetti and Iaquinta before Argentine midfielder Pellegrino levelled for Del Neri's men. Rainieri was pushed out and has been replaced by club legend Ciro Ferrara, who must make sure his team remain in third place, where they now sit just a point above Fiorentina.

    The Viola picked up their seventh win in 8 at home to Sampdoria with, who else, Alberto Gilardino getting the vital goal, his 19th of the season. Sampdoria's city rivals Genoa will have to most likely settle for a Europa league place after being held at home by Chievo. Diego Milito and Ruben Oliveira scored for Genoa but a late Sergio Pellisier equaliser, his 13th of the campaign, shared the spoils. Roma emerged victorious from an extraordinary topsy-turvy game at the Olimpico. They went 3-1 up through Simone Perrota (2) and Mirko Vucinic only for Catania to draw level through Giuseppe Mascara and Japanese starlet Takayuki Morimoto. Christian Panucci's injury time winner keeps Roma two points ahead of Palermo who beat Lazio 2-0 thanks to Fabrizio Miccoli and Giulio Migliaccio.

    At the bottom, Reggina's victory over Cagliari lifts them above Lecce two second-bottom, but with two games to go everything is open. Bologna, who beat Lecce, are just a point adrift of safety and Chievo, despite one defeat in five, are still not safe either. Catania, despite four consecutive losses, are now mathematically safe.

    Superliga Round 29 Review: Trofense down

    OS Belenenses 1 - 0 Rio Ave
    CD Trofense 1 - 4 FC Porto
    Maritimo 1 - 2 Sporting CP
    Vitoria Setubal 0 - 1 Leixões
    Academica 3 - 1 Naval
    Estrela Amadora 1 - 0 Vitoria Guimaraes
    Sporting Braga 1 - 3 Benfica Lisbon
    Nacional 1 - 0 Paços de Ferreira

    Trofense have all but surrendered their Superliga status after defeat at home to the newly crowned Champions with Hulk putting in an inspired display for Porto, laying on goals for Ernesto Farias (2) and Lisandro Lopez (2) with only a rather splendid late strike from Hugo Leal to show for the evening. Thanks to Belenenses's win over Rio Ave, the team from Trofa, halfway between Oporto and Braga, are now bottom two points from safety. Despite Rio Ave's defeat they are unlikely to join them in Liga Honra, their run of one defeat in six meaning they have a three point gap over Belenenses going into the final game and a far superior goal difference. The Lisbon side have to get a point at Benfica, and hope that Setubal lose away at Pacos de Ferreira.

    Elsewhere Liedson scored twice in Sporting's win at Maritimo, capitalising on some truly awful defending by the Madeiran side who long ago gave up on any European aspirations. It is the Islander's fourth straight defeat in a season that has badly petered out. Benfica sealed up third place with a comfortable win over Sporting Braga, Oscar Cardozo, Angel Di Maria and Matias Urreta scoring for O Glorioso with Luis Aguiar's late penalty the only moment of glory for Braga, who will probably finish in 5th.

    Nacional will most likely finish above them after they squeezed past Pacos de Ferreira. Cleber Monteiro, one of seven Brazilians in the Nacional starting line-up, was the hero with an 83rd minute winner. Elsewhere Leixoes ended their bad run with victory at Setubal thanks to Bruno China's first-half header.

    Monday, 18 May 2009

    Twente fail to add cup glory

    As a former England manager, Steve McClaren should be more than conversant with penalty shoot-out defeats. Well if not, he is now. His Enschede side twice came from behind against Heerenveen in the KNVB Beker final at De Kuip in Rotterdam. Goran Popov opened the scoring for Heerenveen on 26 minutes, slamming home unmarked at the back post after Sander Boschker could only palm into his path. Ten minutes into the second half, Twente were level. Blaise N'Kufo dragged Johannes Vonk out of his goal to challenge, but the Swiss striker slipped a neat ball back for Eljero Elia who surged into the box and smashed it past the retreating Vonk high into the net from a tight angle. And so it remained until full time, prompting an additional half hour. Again, the Frisians pressed ahead, Bonaventure Kalou's shot taking a horrid deflection to squeeze past the flailing Boschker. Two minutes from the end, substitute Youssef Hersi headed home Theo Janssen's cross and that meant penalties. Hersi took Twente's third penalty after the first four kicks had all gone it and blazed it over the bar and into the Heerenveen fans behind the goal. With no further misses, Gerald Sibon - once of Sheffield Wednesday - stepped up to take the tenth penalty and he sent Boshker the wrong way to take the cup for Heerenveen.
    It's a bad way for McClaren to end what has been a successful first season in Dutch football, though he's talked down rumours linking him with the vacancy at Ajax.

    In the Europa League play-offs, it was goals galore. A game of three penalties in Breda saw the home side take a 3-2 lead against Feyenoord for whom both goals came from the spot. Rob Penders put NAC ahead and Donny Gorter made it two with the first penalty of the match. Roy Makaay responded with a penalty of his own before Matthew Amoah made it 3-1 with ten minutes to go. But Jon Dahl Tomasson kept it alive going into the second leg converting another penalty after Tom van der Letge was sent off. At the Nieuw Galgewaard, Utrecht were ahead three times but were pegged back each time as they shared six goals with Groningen for whom Markus Berg was the hat-trick hero. Tim Cornelisse put Utrecht ahead on six minutes before Berg levelled it twelve minutes later. Leroy George restored the lead, but Berg had drawn his side level within a minute. Morten Skoubo put Utrecht ahead once again, only for Berg - this time from the penalty spot - squared it up yet again. The second legs are on Thursday while the relegation play-off get going on Friday.

    Sunday, 17 May 2009

    Campeonato Brasiliero Série A Week 2

    Flamengo 0-0 Avaí
    Atlético Mineiro 2-1 Grêmio
    Coritiba 2-4 Santo André
    São Paulo 2-2 Atlético Paranaense
    Barueri 0-0 Fluminense
    Santos 3-3 Goiás
    Internacional 2-0 Palmeiras
    Botafogo 0-0 Corinthians
    Náutico 2-0 Cruzeiro
    Vitória 1-0 Sport Recife

    Promoted Avaí picked up their second point of the season with a scoreless draw with Flamengo at the Maracanã. Grêmio's Libertadores adventures caught up with them as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Atlético Mineiro. Tardelli with the winner form the spot in stoppage time. Despite having Junior Dutra sent off, promoted Santo André picked up an impressive 4-2 victory at Coritiba.

    Champions São Paulo less than impressive start to the season continued at home to Atlético Paranaense as they were held to a 2-2 draw. Andre Lima's strike 3 mintues from time saving a point. Barueri picked up another point in a scoreless draw with Fluminense. Another Libertadores team Palmeiras came unstuck, Internacional picking up a 2-0 win. Goiás were again involved in a 3-3 draw, this time with Santos. Goiás again making a stirring comeback after being 3-1 down, Rafael Toloi with the equaliser 4 minutes from time. Corinthians picked up their first point with a 0-0 draw with Botofogo at the Engenhão. Náutico overcame Cruzeiro 2-0 with goals from Derley and Carlinhos Bala, another team in Libertadores action midweek to be defeated. And finally Sport Recife made it 4 from 4 for Libertadores teams in action midweek to fall to defeat, Neto Baiano with the goal to give Vitória all three points.

    Friday, 15 May 2009

    Ligue 1 week 36

    Bordeaux v Le Mans
    Caen v Sochaux
    St Etienne v Toulouse
    Grenoble v Nancy
    Monaco v Valenciennes
    Lorient v Le Havre
    PSG v Auxerre
    Nantes v Rennes
    Lille v Nice
    Marseille v Lyon

    Outgoing champions Lyon can put a real spanner in the works for league leaders Marseille in this week's undoubted game of the week. Marseille will make Lyon's title relinquishment offical with a point, though they remain in the frame for Champions League football next season. PSG are their big rivals for that third place and they welcome Ireneusz Jelen FC (the club formerly known as Auxerre) at the Parc des Princes this week. Ludovic Giuly is back for the Parisians, which always helps matters, for what promises to be an entertaining clash. Bordeaux trail Marseille by just two goals in second and have what ought to be a straightforward game at home to Le Mans.

    Caen and Sochaux face off in the big game at the wrong end of the table while the final nail will be hammered into Le Havre's coffin should they do anything other than win at Lorient. Even that might not be enough should Nantes get anything from their home game against Rennes. Ideally, Nantes need all three as they remain firmly in the mire as do St Etienne, despite pulling out of the bottom three last week. This week they welcome Toulouse to Geoffrey-Guichard. Valenciennes have been dragged back into it, but a point at Monaco would be enough to see them safe should Caen lose.

    And there's one game with next to bugger all riding on it - Nancy's trip to Grenoble. Both sides are safe and not getting anywhere near a sniff of Europe. Very much an end-of-term game.

    Bundesliga week 33

    Hannover v Wolfsburg
    Dortmund v Arminia
    Stuttgart v Energie
    Leverkusen v Monchengladbach
    Hertha v Schalke
    Hoffenheim v Bayern
    Bochum v Eintracht
    Hamburg v Cologne
    Bremen v Karlsruhe

    Everyone kicks off at half past two on Saturday this week as the season enters it's final two weeks. If anyone is going to make a statement of intent, it had best happen this week. Wolfsburg remain top on goal difference, but have faltered away from home these last few weeks, just as the finishing line approaches. This week they go to Hannover who have precious little to play for. Stuttgart are hot favourites to take all three points from their home tie with Cottbus while the other two title challengers have tougher prospects. Hertha have Schalke visiting the Olympiastadion while Bayern go to resurgent Hoffenheim. Bayern have struggled against pretty much everybody, only managing to beat those clubs down at the bottom in uninspiring fashion. Two wins in a row and Hoffenheim suddenly look like kingmakers.

    Down at the bottom, Bochum can do themselves a massive favour should they beat Eintracht who are not completely safe themselves. A point will do for the Frankfurters, but they are playing some of the most dour football seen since Red Star won that European Cup Final, only without the technical ability of that star-studded side. Karlsruhe's relegation will be confirmed if they fail to beat Bremen while Arminia really need to beat Dortmund to keep their survival hopes alive. Gladbach pulled out of the trouble spots last week, but have a tough trip to Leverkusen.

    Finally, Hamburg are out of it so far as the title is concerned, but need a win at home to Cologne to maintain hopes of European football for next season.

    Copa Libertadores Last 16 Second Legs

    First of all I need to point out the following....these are the tie-breakers for the Copa Libertadores up to the final. Tie-breaking rules (based on Second Stage games): 1st points; 2nd goal difference; 3rd goals scored; 4th away-goals. Then it's penalties if none of that seperates anything and no extra time. Basically, you win the game you get 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw. Then the tie breakers come into play. Tie breakers 2 and 3 are virtually the same but that's the way they do it in that neck of the woods. And these tie break rules change for the final but we'll get to that when necessary

    Anyhoo......second leg results

    Sport 1-0 Palmeiras (Palmeiras wins 3-1 on Penalties)
    Caracas 4-0 Deportivo Cuenca (Caracas win on goal difference)
    Grêmio 2-0 U. San Martin (Grêmio win 6-0 on points)
    Cruzeiro 1-0 Universidad de Chile (Cruzeiro win 6-0 on points)
    Club Libertad 0-0 Estudiantes (Estudiantes win 4-1 on points)

    Drama at the Ilha do Retiro as a late goal from Wilson levelled things up between Sport and Palmeiras. So it finished all level at 1-1 on all the tie breakers and therefore it went to penalties. And it was the visitors who were successful, winning the tie 3-1 to progress. In Caracas, the hosts overcame a 1 goal defecit to progress comfortably after a 4-0 win over Deportivo Cuenca. Figueroa levelled the tie from the spot after 24 minutes before goals Prieto, Renteria and Rey put Caracas into the last 8. Grêmio wrapped a comfortable progression over Universidad San Martin with a 2-0 win. After the 3-1 win in Lima the week before Grêmio were never troubled and wrapped things up with goals from Jonas and substitute Herrera

    After a late goal in Santiago last week looked like it would make things interesting Cruzeiro easily qualifed for the last 8 with a 1-0 win over Universidad de Chile. Kléber with the only goal of the game with 16 minutes left. Estudiantes also progressed after a 0-0 draw with Club Libertad in Asunción. No goals, but plenty of cards. 10 yellows issued in all with Libertad's Pouso dismissed after 66 minutes.

    First Leg

    Defensor Sporting 2-2 Boca Juniors

    Defensor twice came from a goal down to leave everything to play for in next week's second leg at La Bombonera. Martin Palermo gave Boca the dream start with a 3rd minute opener but Pablo Gaglianone equalised on the stroke of half time. Rodrigo Palacio put Boca back ahead just short of the hour mark before Rodrigo Mora's strike 3 minutes from time sent Defensor back over the River Plate still with a chance to qualify.

    Last 8 draw
    Caracas v Grêmio
    Cruzeiro v São Paulo
    Estudiantes v Boca/Defensor (Note: If Defensor win, they will be at home in the first leg)
    Palmeiras v Nacional

    In other news, CONMEBOL have announced that the draw for this years Copa Nissan Sudamericana will take place on July 3rd at CONMEBOL headquarters in Asunción. 16 teams are confirmed participants at the moment, they are Boca Juniors and River Plate (ARG); Internacional (BRA, holders), Flamengo, Coritiba, Goiás, Botafogo, Vitória, Atlético Mineiro, Fluminense and Atlético Paranaense (BRA); Union Española (CHI); CD La Equidad and Deportivo Cali (COL); Cienciano and Alianza Atlético of Sullana (PER); Deportivo Anzoátegui (VEN).

    Wednesday, 13 May 2009

    New Bayern Coach

    After guiding AZ to the Eredivise title Louis Van Gaal has been released by the club and appointed coach of FC Bayern Munich. Van Gaal has signed a 2 year contract with the German giants and officialy takes over in July.

    Still locked up at the top: Ligue 1 reviews

    Lyon 3-0 Nantes
    Nancy 2-2 Lorient
    Auxerre 2-0 Grenoble
    Nice 0-2 Marseille
    Le Havre 2-4 St Etienne
    Toulouse 0-0 Lille
    Sochaux 3-0 Monaco
    Rennes 1-0 Caen
    Le Mans 0-1 PSG
    Valenciennes 1-2 Bordeaux

    Le Havre are down in all but name. Twelve points from safety with three games to go and a massively inferior goal difference, it's back to Ligue 2 with them for next season. They needed to win the relegation battle with St Etienne to remain in with a chance, but went down heavily despite leading into the break. Aruajo Ilan put Les Verts ahead early on before Mamadou Diallo and Massamba Sambou put Le Havre, for whom Vikash Dhorasoo's presidency bid failed, ahead on 20 minutes. After the break, they couldn't hold back the green tide and Bayal Sall, Kevin Mirallas and, in the last minute, Emmanuel Riviere sealed a win that takes St Etienne out of the bottom three. Caen slip back into the danger zone as Petter Hansson's goal comdemned them to a 1-0 defeat to local rivals Rennes while Nantes are also deep in trouble after losing heavily at Lyon. Jean Makoun got two and Anthony Mounier the other as Lyon just about maintain a realistic ambition of another title.

    Marseille and Bordeaux still lead the way, now separated by two goals worth of difference. Mamadou Niang and, late on, Brandao eased Marseille to a straightforward win over Nice while Bordeaux left it late against Valenciennes who aren't safe yet. VA finished with nine men, but were ahead early through a Gael Danic penalty. Fernando Menegazzo drew Bordeaux level before Yoann Gourcuff, inevitably, put them ahead seven minutes from time. In the last five minutes, both Siaka Tiené and Luigi Pieroni were sent off as VA imploded. PSG are in the Europa League place following their win at Le Mans courtesy of that rarest of rarity, a Mateja Kezman winner. Mathemetically, if not realistically, they could still win the title, but Toulouse and Lille, who drew 0-0, are out of it.

    Sochaux are still in bother, but eased immediate woes with an impressive display against Monaco. Marvin Martin put them in front 20 minutes in and a Franois Modesto own goal doubled the lead after the break. Vaclav Sverkos, a very hot property that Sochaux are desperate to hang onto, wrapped it up with a late third. Nancy blew a two-goal lead to draw with Lorient. A Rafik Saifi own goal put them ahead and they defied a numerical disadvantage after Abdeslam Ouaddou was sent off to go two up through Joel Saimi. Two Kevin Gameiro second half goals pegged them back. Ireneusz Jelen continued his impressive form with both goals for Auxerre as they saw off Grenoble 2-0 at the Abbé-Deschamps.

    Five horse race: Bundesliga reviews

    Karlsruhe 2-3 Hannover
    Wolfsburg 3-0 Dortmund
    Cologne 1-2 Hertha
    Bayern 3-0 Leverkusen
    Hamburg 3-1 Bochum
    Eintracht 0-5 Bremen
    Schalke 1-2 Stuttgart
    Energie 0-1 Monchengladbach
    Arminia 0-2 Hoffenheim

    The top five all won in the midweek round of fixtures, with defeat for Dortmund ending their hopes of Bundesliga glory. Wolfsburg, who look set to announce Tomas Schaaf as their new boss soon, bounced back from their trouncing by Stuttgart by dishing up a can of whup-ass on Dortmund. While the Wolves have rocked a bit away from home, their form at the VW Arena is quite incredible. Josué and Grafite linked up well to release Edin Dzeko, who has refound his touch up front, for the first on the quarter hour. Grafite got his 24th of the season, Dzeko this time turning provider with a superb through ball, with a first-time finish and, after Kevin-Prince Boateng was sent off, Grafite teed up Dzeko for his 22nd of the season with five minutes to go. That defeat ends Dortmund's slim hopes of a title as well as their seven-game winning run.

    Bayern, who have sealed a deal to bring Louis van Gaal in as manager next season, also won 3-0 thanks to three second half goals from Luca Toni, Franck Ribéry and Lukas Podolski who is finishing the season well. Hertha won too, though less convincingly, with Cicero giving them the lead and a massive deflection off a Patrick Ebert shot looping over Cologne keeper Thomas Kessler. Adil Chihi had a shot of his own deflected past Jaroslav Drobny in the last minute, but Cologne were well beaten. On Wednesday, Stuttgart maintained their challenge with a win over Schalke. Cacau got the opener for the Swabians and, though Ivan Rakitic equalised just before half-time, won it with Ciprian Marica getting the crucial goal. Hamburg remain a mathematical possibility, though heavy outsiders, with a win over Bochum all but sealed before the break by Paolo Guerrero and Ivica Olic. Olic's second really was the killer despite Paul Freier's consolation.

    At the bottom, Gladbach made it two wins in a week to ease three points away from the bottom three. They left it late though, with Danté heading in from a corner a minute into second half stoppage time, the win pushing Energie down into the bottom two once again. Karlsruhe have it all to do, five points from safety with two games remaining, after they blew a two goal lead at home to Hannover. Alexander Iashvili and Lars Stindl put them 2-0 up, but Sergio Pinto pulled one back thanks to a major blunder from Karlsruhe keeper Markus Miller. Mikael Forssell levelled it up on the stroke of half-time before Hanno Baltisch got the winner with 25 to go. Eintracht still need a point to be safe after they capitulated after right-back Patrick Ochs was sent off on 50 minutes. Torsten Frings scored the resultant penalty and added a second five minutes later. Alexandros Tzolis and Claudio Pizarro scored within a minute of each other before Hugo Aleida made it five with just over ten to go. Arminia remain in the relegation play-off spot after they lost to Hoffenheim who made it two wins in a row after waiting for so long to get off the mark in 2009. A defensive blunder allowed Wellington in for the 25th minute opener before Sejad Salihovic converted a penalty won by a Demba Ba dive which was so convincing that Andre Mijatovic was sent off as a result. With a bit of luck, the DfB will overturn the red card and retrospectively give it to Ba. The big cheating git.

    Tuesday, 12 May 2009

    La Liga Round 35 Review: Champagne on ice for Barca

    Sevilla 3 - 1 Mallorca
    Athletic Bilbao 1 - 0 Real Betis
    Valencia 3 - 0 Real Madrid
    Getafe 3 - 0 Osasuna
    Recreativo Huelva 1 - 2 Deportivo La Coruña
    Real Valladolid 0 - 0 Numancia
    Málaga 1 - 0 Racing Santander
    Almería 3 - 1 Sporting Gijón
    Barcelona 3 - 3 Villarreal
    Atlético Madrid 3 - 2 Espanyol

    Another frantic, breathless weekend in La Liga concluded with Atletico Madrid recovering from a characteristically awful start to come from 2 goals down to beat Espanyol at the Calderon. Diego Forlan's rocket of a first goal gave them hope before Aguero drew then level, Forlan then grabbing the winner and drawing level on goals with Samuel Eto'o to set up a truly awesome finale of a duel for the Pichichi crown. Earlier that night, Barcelona had surrendered a 3-1 advantage to allow Villarreal to claw back a point through goals from Llorente (2) and Fernandez after Eto'o, Alves and Keita had scored for the hosts. It was a result that meant Barcelona cannot yet celebrate wrapping up the La Liga title.

    Real Madrid all-but-folded on Saturday evening with a dismal display at Valencia. Mata, Silva and Baraja all got on the scoresheet for Los Che as they remain the men in position of that vital fourth place. Sevilla retain third spot after a 3-1 win over Mallorca that included Fredi Kanoute's 18th of another prolific campaign. Regardless of Saturday's result, we must tip our hats to Gregorio Manzano for rescuing Mallorca from the abyss. Bottom in January, they looked hopeless and helpless but now they sit 10th, safe from relegation, an all the more impressive achievement when you factor in the players he has lost and the parlous financial state of the club.

    Despite taking a point from the Camp Nou, Villarreal were shunted out of the top six by a resurgent Deportivo La Coruna, who collected their fourth win in five at Recreativo thanks to goals from Verdu and Alvarez. Malaga's defeat of Racing (Racing's fourth loss in five - awful) means they are still in with a shout of the Europea league, while Athletic beat Betis for a third win in four. Betis have lost their last four games and are now perilously close to the two teams below them who are the only ones to have worse records then they do - Osasuna (who lost 3-0 at Getafe) and Sporting Gijon (who lost 3-1 at Almeria, including Negredo's 19th of the season).

    Serie A Round 35 Review: Nearly there for Inter

    Sampdoria 5 - 0 Reggina
    Lazio 1 - 3 Udinese
    Torino 1 - 1 Bologna
    Catania 0 - 2 Fiorentina
    Atalanta 1 - 1 Genoa
    Chievo Verona 2 - 2 Inter Milan
    Lecce 1 - 1 Napoli
    Siena 1 - 0 Palermo
    Cagliari 2 - 2 AS Roma
    AC Milan 1 - 1 Juventus

    Inter were held to a draw at the Bentegodi in a thriller against Chievo Verona. Hernan Crespo, with only his second goal of the season, gave Inter an early lead before Marcolini's impressive strike drew the hosts level. Mario Balotelli matched him with a thumping volley in the second half, only for Brazilian Luciano to once again peg Inter back, who were not at their best due to Zlatan Ibrahimovic being suspended. AC Milan's draw with Juventus meant little harm was done to their title challenge, which can be wrapped up next week. Chievo, meanwhile, are now six points clear of the drop with three games left, a commendable position given their precarious state at Christmas.

    As speculation continues over the future of Carlo Ancelotti, AC Milan kept the gap over Juve to four points with Sunday night's draw. The Rossoneri took the lead through Clarence Seedorf's second half strike only for Vincenzo Iaquinta to level three minutes later for his 9th of the season. The Gobbini are without a win in seven and only three points ahead of Fiorentina in fourth. The Viola remain in pole position for that vital Champions league spot after they beat Catania through goals from Montenegrin starlet Stevan Jovetic and Luciano Zauri. Catania's end of season form has been dismal including four defeats in the last six leaving any European hopes in tatters.

    Roma are pressing the self destruct button at the moment with just one win in the last five, and they were held at Cagliari to futher tighten the race for the Europe league places. Matri gave Cagliari the lead before Francesco Totti levelled, Robert Acquafresca then put Cagliari back in front before Simone Perotta snatched a late, and undeserved, point for the embattled Luciano Spalleti. Genoa also left it late, having gone behind in Bergamo through the Chilean Juan Valdes it took until the 92nd minute for Domenico Criscito to tap in and keep the Grifone's Champions league hopes alive. Palermo could have stolen Roma's sixth spot on Sunday had they won at Siena, but as it is they are two points behind and Lazio are also blowing their chances, slumping to a third straight defeat at home to Udinese. Tomasso Rocchi had given the Biancocelesti the lead only for Floro Flores, D'Agostino and Quagliarella to reply for the visitors who are still within a shout of an extraordinary season turnaround and usurping Roma's sixth spot.

    At the bottom, Sampdoria thrashed Reggina to leave the Calabrian side four points off safety with three games left; The next 4 teams up all drew but one out of Lecce, Bologna and Torino will stay up - current form points to Lecce who are three games unbeaten and two points off safety but with three games to go it remains very tight down there.

    Superliga Round 28: Porto Lift The Crown

    Vitoria Guimaraes 0 - 1 Rio Ave
    Benfica 2 - 2 CD Trofense
    Sporting CP 2 - 1 Vitoria Setubal
    Paços de Ferreira 2 - 1 Maritimo
    Naval 0 - 0 Estrela Amadora
    Leixões 0 - 1 Academica de Coimbra
    FC Porto 1 - 0 Nacional
    OS Belenenses 0 - 5 Sporting Braga

    So that is another Superliga crown wrapped up for FC Porto. That is the Dragões fourth title in a row, and the third in a row for Jesualdo Ferreira who becomes the first Portuguese manager to achieve such a feat. They sealed the title on Sunday in rather unspectacular fashion with a 1-0 win over Nacional thanks to Bruno Alves's header. His dodgy performances in Europe aside, Alves has been a rock at the back in the league all season for the Champions and it seemed somehow fitting that he would get the decisive goal. In truth, Porto deserve their title because they have been the most consistent team over the course of the 28 rounds so far. They were 2nd at Christmas and while others started well and fell away (Leixões, Benfica) or started badly and improved (Sporting) they have remained roughly at a constant and while they have rarely been flamboyant, few neutral observers would begrudge them a fourth consecutive title.

    Sporting had at least done their bit on Saturday with victory over Setubal at the Alvalade, Liedson scoring two goals sandwiching an equaliser from Setubal's promising U21 international striker Bruno Gama. Liedson has now hit 15 for the season, equalling his total for the past three seasons. Just down the road at the Estadio da Luz, Benfica produced another miserable display at home to Trofense, who claimed a deserved point from their spirited performance. After the visitors took the lead, Oscar Cardozo scored twice before Brazilian midfielder Paulinho secured a share of the spoils for Trofense. Quique Sanchez Flores has signed his own death warrant with his side's recent showings, winning just two of their last six.

    They could yet be overtaken in third by Braga, who crushed a feeble Belensenses side on Monday night, with Porto loanee Wason Renteria and Paulo Cesar each helping themselves to two goals. With two games left Belenenses are 4 points from safety. Rio Ave, who for so long looked doomed, are now within touching distance of safety after a win at Guimaraes thanks to Fabio Contreao's 40th minute penalty. Leixoes and Maritimo both kissed goodbye to any lingering hopes of European competition with defeats, to Academica and Pacos respectively while Amadora are safe for another year after their goalless draw with Naval, for whom there is still a mathematical chance of relegation.

    Copa Libertadores Update

    Due to the ongoing Swine Flu outbreak CONMEBOL have reluctantly accepted the withdrawal of Guadalajara and San Luis from this years Copa Libertadores by FeMexFu. It was getting harder for the games to be arranged as both São Paulo and Nacional had refused to travel to Mexico and attempts to stage the games in Colombia were unsuccessful. This means both São Paulo and Nacional now progress to the quarter finals without kicking a ball in anger.

    FeMexFu have also withdrawn their clubs from this years Copa Sudamericana which gets underway later in the year.

    Monday, 11 May 2009

    Guingamp spring a surprise

    Rennes 1-2 Guingamp

    Rennes' European ambitions look over after a surprise defeat in the final of the Coupe de France. American defender Carlos Bocanegra gave Guy Lacombe's Ligue 1 favourites the edge, heading in a free-kick from close range with 20 minutes to go. Brazilian striker Eduardo dos Santos equalised with a fine strike three minutes later and, with seven minutes remaining, he put Guingamp in front as the Rennes defence got caught out.

    The league programme was off for the weekend because of the cup final, but we have a full round of fixtures in midweek.

    Lyon v Nantes
    Nancy v Lorient
    Auxerre v Grenoble
    Nice v Marseille
    Le Havre v St Etienne
    Toulouse v Lille
    Sochaux v Monaco
    Rennes v Caen
    Le Mans v PSG
    Valenciennes v Bordeaux

    Lots of issues still to decided at either end of the table. Bordeaux should see off Valenciennes with ease given the two sides relative form. Laurent Blanc's side are playing quite magnificently at the moment, maintaining the pressure on leaders Marseille who have the tougher task this week, going away to Nice. Lyon are seven adrift and surely too far away with four games remaining, though they should beat relegation haunted Nantes. Claude Puel has dismissed reports that he'll leave Lyon after a disappointing first season, but PSG will start next season with a new gaffer as Paul Le Guen will leave Parc des Princes when this season is done. They're still fighting for European football, but will be hot favourites to see off Le Mans. Toulouse were buoyed in midweek by the news that André-Pierre Gignac has committed his future to the club and their game against Lille will see the loser all but out of the race for Europe.

    Down at the bottom, Le Havre can still save themselves, albeit with an unlikely set of circumstances needing to come about were it to happen. They face St Etienne in a relegation tussle. Les Verts are desperate for points just as Le Havre are so this will either be a gung ho excitathon or as cagey as your average budgerigar's living arrangements. Caen won well last time out to move out of the bottom three and take on Rennes who must be deflated after that Cup defeat. Rennes are six points away from a European place. Surely it's gone now. Sochaux are out of the bottom three, but will be doing well to see off in-form Monaco while Nancy have pulled out of trouble these last few weeks and could go above Lorient if they beat them on Wednesday. Auxerre are in great form, as they have been since their talisman, Ireneusz Jelen, came back from injury, and they welcome Grenoble to the Abbé-Deschamps in a mid-table tussle.

    Open wide: Bundesliga reviews

    Leverkusen 2-2 Arminia
    Hoffenheim 2-0 Cologne
    Hannover 1-1 Eintracht
    Energie 1-3 Bayern
    Stuttgart 4-1 Wolfsburg
    Hertha 2-0 Bochum
    Dortmund 4-0 Karlsruhe
    Monchengladbach 1-0 Schalke
    Bremen 2-0 Hamburg

    Five points now cover the top six in Germany - one point covering the top three - in a ridiculously close title race. All this came about courtesy of leaders Wolfsburg getting hammered in Stuttgart. Billed as a battle between the three hot shot strikers on show, Mario Gomez rose to the occasion scoring all four of his sides goals as they move within two of the summit. His first came barely 30 seconds into the contest, heading past a stranded Diego Benaglio. 20 minutes later, Cacau sprang the offside trap - he was on, two others were off, causing the Wolfsburg defence to stand and watch - and teed Gomez up for a tap-in before Edin Dzeko pulled one back. Two more for Gomez in the second half wrapped it up. Wolfsburg still lead, but only by virtue of two goals better difference than Bayern who won easily at Cottbus. José Sosa opened the scoring for the Bavarians, but they went in level after Ivica Iliev equalised a minute from half-time. The second half was all Bayern with Martin Demichelis and Lukas Podolski getting further goals and they also had time for Franck Ribéry to miss a penalty.

    Hertha are third, a point back, after a comfortable win over Bochum, courtesy of Marko Pantelic and Raffael, with Stuttgart a point back from the Berliners. Hamburg and Dortmund are level on 55 points, five off the top, but the two sides are going different ways. Hamburg look done after Hugo Almeida scored twice to make Martin Jol utterly sick of the sight of Bremen. Dortmund, on the other hand, are the form team in the league with their sixth straight win coming at the expense of Karlsruhe. A goal up at the break through Jakub Blaszczykowski, they ran riot in the second with goals from Nuri Sahin, Felipe Santana and Alexander Frei.

    Gladbach move out of the bottom three thanks to a one-goal win over Schalke. They left it late, Robert Colautti getting the winner in second half stoppage time, sparing the blushes of his precocious team-mate Marko Marin who missed a first half penalty. Karlsruhe remain bottom, five points from safety with three games to go. Cottbus drop to second bottom with Arminia in the relegation play-off place despite picking up a point in Leverkusen. The home side had to come from behind as Stefan Kiessling's opener was equalised within a minute by his team-mate Manuel Friedrich who put through his own net. Robert Tesche then put Arminia ahead before the break, but Patrick Helmes squared it back up eleven minutes from the end, his tewntieth of the season.

    Hannover and Eintracht stumbled to a one-all draw, Arnold Bruggink putting Hannover ahead early with Umit Korkmaz equalising before the break and Hoffenheim finally won in '09, at home to Cologne. Two super goals did it, a splendid free-kick from Sejad Salihovic and this fizzer from Demba Ba. Cologne finished with ten men when Youssef Mohamad was sent off ten minutes from time, though Boubacar Sanogo missed the resultant penalty.

    There's a round of games in midweek this week too as the season comes to a close.
    Karlsruhe v Hannover
    Wolfsburg v Dortmund
    Cologne v Hertha
    Bayern v Leverkusen
    Hamburg v Bochum
    Eintracht v Bremen
    Schalke v Stuttgart
    Energie v Monchengladbach
    Arminia v Hoffenheim

    The big one there is Wolfsburg against Dortmund with the Wolves needing to get back to winning ways quickly. Stuttgart have a tough game at Schalke, though Bayern should be OK at home to Leverkusen. Hertha look good to maintain the pressure at Cologne. Hamburg need to beat Bochum to stand any chance, you fancy, while the big game at the bottom sees Gladbach go to Energie in a proverbial six-pointer.

    AZ finish with a flourish: Eredivisie review

    Heracles 1-1 Utrecht
    Ajax 1-0 Twente
    Den Haag 3-1 Vitesse
    Groningen 1-0 NAC
    AZ 3-1 Heerenveen
    De Graafschap 2-2 Volendam
    NEC 1-1 Sparta
    Willem II 0-3 PSV
    Feyenoord 2-3 Roda

    After a couple of weeks where they had the cue in the rack, AZ actually turned up for a game this week and duly got back to doing what won them this title a few weeks ago. Heerenveen have been on a wobble for a while themselves and Louis van Gaal's men ensured that the presentation of the big dish was done in the best cicumstances, on the back of an accomplished win. Without suspended midfield duo Stijn Schaars and Gil Swerts, Demy De Zeeuw was the architect of a superb performance, a fitting end to an amazing season. Mounir El Hamdaoui's opener ensured he ended the season as top scorer and Moussa Dembele got two, taking him into double figures for the first time in his young career despite two months out with injury. Patrick Ingelsten got one back late on, firing past Joey Didulica who came off the bench to end the game in the AZ goal just a couple of weeks after taking a frightful whack in the head. If van Gaal stays, few would back against AZ making it a double, but Bayern are after him and a move is definitely on the cards.

    The main issues to be resolved were down at the bottom and it's Volendam who go down. They were held at fellow flirters with relegation, De Graafschap, at De Vijverberg. The home side were ahead early in the second half through Stephan Keller, but Volendam edged in front with Gerson Sheotahul and Jack Tuyp netting within the space of four minutes. Tragi-comically, it was an own goal that levelled it up, Gerry Koning putting through his own net for the goal which sent his side down. A point would have been enough, but Roda saved themselves with a win over 9-man Feyenoord. The Rotterdammers finish seventh, in the Europa League play-offs, and they were two goals and one man down 21 minutes into this contest. Sekou Cissé opened the scoring before Dwight Tiendali was sent off for a professional foul and Marcel Meeuwis converted the resultant penalty. Roy Makaay had a disappointing season despite some late goals and he was on target twice, pulling it back to 2-1 from a tight angle and making it 3-2 from the penalty spot after Anouar Hadouir had restored Roda's two-goal lead. Any chance of a comeback was scuppered six minutes from the end when Kevin Hofland joined Tiendali back in the sheds. De Graafschap and Roda go into the relegation play-offs. That win could have seen Roda out of trouble altogether, but with Den Haag beating Vitesse, they have to settle for a play-off. Den Haag were in control from the off, Danny Buijs and Karim Soltani with early goals. Buijs made it 3-0 before Ricky van Wolfswinkel got one back with 20 to go.

    Ajax finished with a win, Urby Emanuelson's expertly taken free-kick enough to see off Twente and the Amsterdammers will be joined in the Europa League by PSV, 3-0 winners over Willem II. Since Dwight Lodeweges took over in Eindhoven, PSV have gone much better and the form of January buy Ola Toivonen bodes well for next season. He got the first, the promising Balázs Dzsudzsák the second and Danny Koevermans lashed in a third to end their campaign on a high. The play-offs for the final Europa League spot will feature Heerenveen and Feyenoord as well as Groningen and Breda who faced each other this week. Andreas Granqvist put Groningen into the lead just before the break and that was enough, NAC ending with ten men after Ellery Cairo was sent off late on. NAC qualify for the play-offs because Utrecht could only manage a draw with Heracles and had to wait until second half stoppage time for Cedric van der Gun's equaliser after Mark Jan Fledderus put the Almelo side in front. Neither NEC or Sparta had much to play for and they fought out a 1-1 draw, Bas Sibum equalising Erik Falkenburg's opener just before the break. Mario Been leaves NEC now to take on the Feyenoord job. After getting NEC over-achieving, it's going to take someone special to take them on.

    And that's your lot from the Eredivisie this season, with just the cup final to come where Twente will look to cap a great season against Heerenveen and those play-offs. VVV Venlo come back up with RKC Waalwijk and Cambur Leeurwarden joining De Graafschap and Roda in the hunt for the last two Eredivisie places for next season.

    The Euroballs Eredivisie team of the season looks like this, in a 4-3-3 style:
    Joey Didulica (AZ); Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), Rob Wielaert (Ajax), Gil Swerts (AZ), Jan Vertonghen (Ajax) ; Demy de Zeeuw (AZ), Ibrahim Afellay (PSV), Kenneth Perez (Twente); Moussa Dembele (AZ), Mounir El Hamdaoui (AZ), Blaise N'Kufo (Twente).
    Honourable mentions for Balázs Dzsudzsák, Ola Toivonen, Nordin Amrabat (all PSV), Luis Suarez (Ajax), Georgino Wijnaldum (Feyenoord), Danijel Pranjic (Heerenveen), Marko Arnautovic, Eljero Elia (both Twente).

    Sunday, 10 May 2009

    Campeonato Brasiliero Série A Week 1

    Avaí 2-2 Atlético Mineiro
    Sport Recife 1-1 Barueri
    Palmeiras 2-1 Coritiba
    Cruzeiro 2-0 Flamengo
    Corinthians 0-1 Internacional
    Fluminense 1-0 São Paulo
    Atlético Paranaense 0-2 Vitória
    Grêmio 1-1 Santos
    Santo André 1-1 Botafogo
    Goiás 3-3 Náutico

    The Série A season got under way in Brazil at the weekend on Saturday with three games and two of the promoted sides in action. Avaí let a two goal lead slip to draw at home with Atlético Mineiro whilst Barueri picked up a point at Sport with Pedrão getting the equaliser in a 1-1 draw. At the Palestra Itália Palmeiras recovered from going a goal down to beat Coritiba 2-1. Keirrison getting the winner with a minute left on the clock.

    New signing Adriano was absent for Flamengo and they went down to 2-0 to Cruzeiro. Corintihans return to the big time started with a 1-0 home defeat to Internacional, Nilmar with the strike on 8 minutes. Champions São Paulo fell to a surprise 1-0 to Fluminense at the Maracanã. Mauricio with the goal after 2 minutes. Vitória were comfortable 2-0 victors at Atlético Paranaense. A late Molina goal salvaged a point for Santos at Grêmio who had gone ahead through Réver. Promoted Santo André almost collected an opening day win but Victor Simões salvaged a 1-1 draw for Botofogo. And finally a goal fest at Goiás where 6 goals were shared with Náutico. The visitors clawing their back from a 3-1 defecit to claim an opening day point.

    Friday, 8 May 2009

    Rennes' best route to Europe

    No French league action this weekend, though they pick it up with a round of fixtures on Tuesday and Wednesday, as it's the Cup final on Saturday. Like the league cup, this is also a Ligue 1 v Ligue 2 clash as Guy Lacombe takes his Rennes side to the capital to play their Breton rivals Guingamp. Naturally, Rennes will go in as favourites, but Guingamp dumped European challengers Toulouse out in the semi-finals and, with it being a derby, you're duty bound to use such clichés like 'form goes out of the window'. Moreover, Lacombe was in charge at Guingamp for many years where he brought through such luminaries as Florent Malouda and every Norwegian referee's favourite, Didier Drogba.

    Rennes are without international striker Jimmy Briand through injury and influential midfielder Kader Mangane through suspension, picked up when just about hacking off the leg of Valenciennes midfielder Jonathan Lacourt. Moussa Sow will lead the line in Briand's absence and he's been pretty effective in that role recently. Guingamp are not without their stars, most notably two-time French Cup runner-up Wilson Oruma. He played in and lost twice during his spell with Marseilles. "It's 70-30 in their favour" he said during the build-up, "but we'll give it everything as 30% isn't bad". That's the spirit.

    Bundesliga week 31

    Leverkusen v Arminia
    Hoffenheim v Cologne
    Hannover v Eintracht
    Energie v Bayern
    Stuttgart v Wolfsburg
    Hertha v Bochum
    Dortmund v Karlsruhe
    Monchengladbach v Schalke
    Bremen v Hamburg

    No doubting game of the week in round 31: Stuttgart v Wolfsburg. The Wolves remain top of the table after thumping Hoffenheim last week while the Swabians just fell off the pace a little as they were held by lowly Arminia. Will Wolfsburg be rocked by the impending departure of Felix Magath? Doubtful, though at least Magath admitted in the week that "We are in professional sport and it is all about money. Everything else is a load of tosh." Fair enough Felix. It's all about the goal scorers this one. Grafite and Edin Dzeko are both on form for Wolfsburg while Mario Gomez is Stuttgart's leading man. It promises to be a cracker.

    The other stand-out fixture is Bremen against Hamburg who meet for the third time in ten days following their UEFA Cup skirmish. That ended 3-3 on aggregate with Bremen progressing to the final on away goals, thanks to the intervention of a plastic cup which diverted a ball out for a corner from which Bremen went 3-1 up on the night. They face Shakhtar Donetsk in that final, but Hamburg are still in the title hunt and will be out for revenge. Bremen star Diego is interesting Juventus as he continues to hunt for a way out of the Weserstadion.

    Ralf Rangnick is staying put at Hoffenheim despite recent comments about a lack of ambition at the club and he's been promised a war chest from owner Dietmar Hopp as they look to make a better fist of it next season. Can they break their duck for the year this week? Doubtful. Suspensions and injuries leave Rangnick with a skeleton squad and Cologne are a tidy side. Jupp Heynckes takes Bayern to Cottbus where Energie are going well and a win for the Easterners there would put massive pressure on their relegation rivals. Gladbach, Arminia and Karlsruhe all have tough games - against Schalke, Leverkusen and Dortmund respectively - and it'd be a surprise to see any of them take maximum points. Dortmund are coming up fast on the rails with a great run. Time is against them though as they're eight points off Wolfsburg with four games to go, but they're definitely not out of making the Champions League. Hannover are all but safe and they take on Eintracht who aren't quite yet. The Frankfurters need points and this may be their best opportunity of getting them before the season's end.

    There's a round in midweek next week too as the season draws to an end.

    Eredivisie final round

    Heracles v Utrecht
    Ajax v Twente
    Den Haag v Vitesse
    Groningen v NAC
    AZ v Heerenveen
    De Graafschap v Volendam
    NEC v Sparta
    Willem II v PSV
    Feyenoord v Roda

    The big game in the last round of fixtures in the Netherlands is at De Vijverberg where Volendam travel to take on De Graafschap. Currently, the two sides are in the relegation play-off positions - sixteenth and seventeenth - and a win for either would probably pull them out it. Roda are bottom and have a tough task in Rotterdam to stave off relegation. Having survived the merger plan that would have seen them subsumed into FC Sporting Limburg, they're still weighed down by financial woes and a dro pdown to the Eerste will not help, even with what could be decent derbies against VVV, MVV and Fortuna.

    Speaking of financial woes, how badly will Ajax's failure to reach the Champions League prove? Very, we reckon. At least Marco van Basten saved them a pay-off by quitting rather than hanging around to get sacked. They complete their season at home to the side that pipped them for second, Twente. Steve McClaren claims this job wasn't about rehabilitation, but there has to be an element of that. If he can add the Dutch Cup to the second place finish, that would represent a terrific achievement. Heerenveen will hope to capitalise on AZ's recent poor form that has seen them lose more times in the last three weeks than in the rest of the season combined. They're two points back from the second automatic Europa League spot currently held by PSV. To overhaul the Eindhoven giants, they need to win and PSV to lose, such is PSV's goal difference. Trouble is that PSV are away at Willem II in what looks an awful mismatch. So Heerenveen will have to make do with the play-offs for the Europa League where they'll be joined by Groningen and two others. One of those others may be Groningen's opponents this week, NAC, who occupy the last play-off place, level on points with Feyenoord. Should either of those two slip up, Utrecht and Vitesse are waiting to pounce and both have winnable away games against lesser opposition. The permutations are myriad and we only have a couple of days before it all gets underway.

    Sparta's win last week made them safe while NEC's defeat sees them unable to make those play-offs. So this is one game with absolutely bugger all riding on it.

    Copa Libertadores Round Up

    Copa Libertadores Round of 16 1st Legs

    The Swine Flu outbreak has begun to cause havoc with the competition. With both Mexican clubs due to play their games as double header at Estadio El Campín in Bogotá, the city authorities blackballed CONMEBOL's plan fearing an epidemic to break out. CONMEBOL have therefore decided to delay the games by a week in order to come up with a solution to the problem.

    Things got underway at the Palestra Itália on Tuesday night where Palmeiras and Sport met for the third time in the competition this season. The seeding system allowing two teams from the same group to meet again in the competition. Palmeiras had held the upper hand in the Group stage, winning in Recife before a draw back at the Palestra Itália. And it is the home side who would take a lead into next weeks second leg. After Hamilton Calheiros was shown a straight red card for Sport for a foul on José Ortigoza and it was Ortigoza who had the last laugh a minute later as he headed home the winner.

    Grêmio put one foor in the last 8 with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Universidad San Martín in Lima. Souza put the top seeded Brazilians into the lease but Martín Arzuaga equalized 11 minutes before half time. However a Maxi López (yes, the former Barcelona player) brace in the second half should be enough to see the Brazilians into the last 8.

    The remaining first leg ties to be played this week were completed on Thursday night. Cruzeiro will take a 2-1 lead over Universidad de Chile back to Belo Horizonte for the second leg next week. Soares and Marquinhos Paraná put Cruzeiro two up before Rafael Ollara made next week's game interesting with a strike 7 minutes from time. Universidad will be without Rafael Ollarra after he was sent off three minutes from time.

    Estudiantes stuck a toe into the last 8 with a 3-0 victory over Club Libertad in La Plata. Gastón Fernández put the home side up inside a minute and two second half goals in the space of 7 minutes from Mauro Boselli wrapped things up. Miguel Samudio was sent off for Club Libertad and he will miss the return match.

    Caracas got the perfect start in Cuenca on what can only be described as a "paddy field" of a pitch when Gabriel Cichero put them ahead against Deportivo Cuenca inside two minutes. Rodrigo Teixiera levelled for Deportivo just short of the hour before Hólger Matamoros struck 20 minutes from time to give the Ecuadorians a slender 2-1 advantage to take back to Caracas.


    Palmeiras 1-0 Sport
    Universidad San Martin 1-3 Grêmio
    Deportivo Cuenca 2-1 Caracas
    Estudiantes 3-0 Club Libertad
    Universidad de Chile 1-2 Cruzeiro

    Next weeks fixtures

    First Legs

    14/5 Defensor Sporting v Boca Juniors
    TBC San Luis v Nacional
    TBC Guadalajara v São Paulo

    Second Legs

    12/5 Sport v Palmeiras
    12/5 Caracas v Deportivo Cuenca
    13/5 Grêmio v Universidad San Martin
    14/5 Cruzeiro v Universidad de Chile
    14/5 Club Libertad v Estudiantes

    Wednesday, 6 May 2009

    Adriano signs for Flamengo

    After having his contract cancelled by Internazionale Milano for staying in Brazil after the last round of World Cup Qualifiers Adriano has resigned for Rio de Janeiro giants Flamengo.

    After leaving Flamengo to join Internazionale in 2001 he made 143 appearances for the Milan giants scoring 48 goals. In this time Adriano also had loan spells away from the San Siro at Fiorentina and Parma. Adriano who was out of contract in the summer was thanked by Internazionale for his efforts at the club but in truth they were glad to see the back of him after his off field problems.

    Adriano could make his debut for Flamengo in their opening Série A match against Cruzeiro on Sunday.