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Saturday 22 May 2010, UEFA Champions League, Final

  Bayern München
   0 - 2    Internazionale  

José Mourinho, Diego Milito and the rest of Internazionale's 2009/2010 roster secured their place in history by landing the European Cup for the Milan side for the first time in 45 years, becoming the first Italian side to complete a Treble of Scudetto, Coppa Italia and European Cup.

Possession is said to be 9/10ths of the law. Not so on this Saturday night, where Bayern enjoyed control of the ball twice as long as Inter but failed to do much good with it. Ivica Olic, the hero against Lyon and needing two goals to dislodge Lionel Messi as the tournament's top goalscorer failed to get a single shot on target. Young Thomas Müller did better, but Júlio César showed why he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. In the absence of Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben had to do it all by himself again. Unlike during the clashes with Man Utd and Fiorentina, the mercurial Dutch winger couldn't make the difference this time around. Credit must go to Inter's defence, who neutralised the German threat as efficiently as Barcelona's in the semi final.

Mourinho's men went 1-0 up on 35 minutes, when Wesley Sneijder passed the ball to Milito at just the right moment, leaving the Argentine marksman with a golden chance to open the scoring. He didn't waste it. And before the first half was over, Milito returned the favour to Sneijder, putting him one-on-one with goalkeeper Butt. The Dutch midfielder wasn't as sharp as his teammate just minutes earlier though, and 1-0 was the half-time score.

Bayern could, perhaps should, have levelled the contest in the first minute after the interval, when a rare lapse of concentration in the Inter defence gave them one of their best opportunities of the match. Again it went begging, and Louis van Gaal's outfit eventually paid the price. Like in the first half, Milito scored after 35 minutes, getting rid of a hestitant Van Buyten and curling the ball into the net. 2-0, game over, cue major celebrations.

The Special One has redeemed himself and becomes only the third manager (after Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld) to win the European Cup/Champions League with two different clubs. As Mourinho appears to be on his way to Real Madrid, he'll be looking to rewrite history books and become the first one to do it with three...

Original match preview

Allegedly, widescreen televisions are selling at an astonishing rate this week, marketeers linking this to the upcoming World Cup. They're wrong. However, increased sales are football related: as the UEFA Champions League Final approaches, everyone realises in order to fit both Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho and their egos on one screen requires a widescreen TV.

We're probably not going to see a very open final. Inter have been too cautious for that. Nor will Bayern be very interested in walking straight into the counter-attacking knife their Italian opponents have wielded so efficiently this season. Both sides are now so close to returning to the absolute summit of European football after a lengthy absence, the psychological side of the contest should be as vital as the respective outfits' footballing skills.

At the time of writing this preview, both Bayern and Internazionale have taken one hurdle on their way to a potential treble. The Germans already won the league and will face Werder Bremen in the DFB Pokal final before the Madrid showdown, while Inter, fresh from their Coppa Italia triumph, should retain the Scudetto come Sunday. Should both live up to expectations of fans and bookmakers alike, both are on for a first Champions Cup/League/Domestic Cup Treble in the history of their respective nations' club football.

As for the impact on the Oosterpark Rankings: a Bayern win will take them to their highest-ever ranking of 3rd, bettering their current 4th place they first held after their fourth and so far last European Cup triumph in 2001. Internazionale would, in the event of success in Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, rise to 11th. Depending on the outcome of Serie A this weekend, that could be within a hair's-breadth of 10th placed Peñarol, presenting the Italians with the opportunity of returning to the top-10 for the first time since 1975 during the Club World Cup in December. But then, even if they don't climb higher than 11th it still will be their best rating for 33 years.


Tuesday 27 April 2010, UEFA Champions League, Semi Final, 2nd Leg

  Olympique Lyon
   0 - 3 (0 - 4 on aggregate)    Bayern München  

Talk about back in the day... Illness confined me to my bed for the lion's share of the week, leaving live radio reports as the only way of catching three days of European semi finals. So whether or not Thiago Motta's red card in the Barca v Inter game was just, Barcelona's injury time goal should've stood, or if HSV were hard done by against Fulham, I couldn't judge with my own eyes.

I've little doubt Bayern's 3-0 demolition job on Lyon put the stronger of the two sides in the final though. A win by that margin usually doesn't lie. Ivica Olic wouldn't have featured on many pre-season top goalscorer lists, but his hattrick puts him on seven for the campaign, just one behind Messi who obviously won't be involved in the final.

The writing was on the wall after the first leg. Franck Ribéry's act of stupidity will cost him a Champions League Final appearance, but at least his team will be there. Unlike Lyon, who failed to convert their numerical advantage into an away goal. They did look pretty unwilling to attrack in both legs didn't they? And so, Louis van Gaal will lead a team out in Europe's biggest game for the third time in his career, against his former apprentice Jose Mourinho. No England, no Spain, but a Germany v Italy final. One could've become a very rich man by putting money on such an unexpected outcome.

Original match preview

I'm going to cheat a little here and pick the same game twice. Busy days and all that...

At any rate, after the first leg, the tie is still nicely balanced, despite Lyon's failure to get that ever so vital away goal. Let's not talk about Ribery's stupidity (the stuff ON the pitch I mean) and how it will cost him the second leg. Instead, I'll take some pride in finally getting a prediction right (with regard to the importance of Arjen Robben to Bayern's cause). Now let's see if we can keep that up eh? Oosterpark Rankings prediction for the return leg: 1-1 draw, Mark van Bommel getting the killer strike away from home.

[original first leg preview]
It's almost like in the good old days, the four semi finalists in the European Cup come from as many different countries, after we already had six different leagues represented in the quarter finals. It may well be just a temporary blip for the English teams, but for the time being, I'm sure the neutral fan enjoys this campaign.

Talking about the old days, I hear the away teams will travel by bus this week...

Barcelona got a decent amount of coverage this season already, so let's leave their clash with Internazionale for a later report, and have a look at the other candidates for a place in the Madrid showpiece event next month. Bundesliga leaders Bayern München face Olympique Lyon, who probably will not be adding to the seven league titles won so far in this century but who are now favourites to clinch a place in next year's tournament.

The French side are hitting form at just the right time, and might secure a unique double of a place in both the men's UEFA Champions League final and its female counterpart in the same season. Bayern may be slight favourites though, having eliminated Manchester United in the previous round. If Bayern are to be successful again, Arjen Robben could well hold the key.

There also lies some irony in the fact that Germany are so close behind third-placed Italy in the UEFA Coefficients, the lowest position that carries four Champions League places, that qualification for the final could take the Germans past the Italians. If they do so, Germany gets an extra CL ticket for the season after next, which means Bayern would have to share the German market pool share with an extra club, putting them further behind Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Manchester United in the Deloitte Football Money League. So incidental success this year could cost them a shot at a structural place among the last four.


Saturday 10 April 2010, Spanish Primera Division, Game 31

  Real Madrid
   0 - 2    Barcelona  

If it looks like game over, if it smells like game over, if it feels like game over, it probably IS game over. For the second time in a week Lionel Messi took Barcelona by the hand and showed the reigning Spanish, European and World champions the way to victory in a game of the highest importance.

By opening the score on 33 minutes, Messi made it five goals in as many days, paving the way for the eventual 2-0 win (Pedro grabbed the second ten minutes into the second half) that takes Barcelona three points clear of their arch-rivals Real Madrid.

There are seven games to go, which means 21 points to play for, but given that that was exactly the margin between the two titans of Spanish football and third-placed Valencia, Real shouldn't expect any of Barcelona's remaining opponents to stand too much of a chance of taking points away from them, especially now that we're on the home straight. Even if Barca drop three points more than Real, they'll still clinch the title on head-to-head results. The only footnote one might place is that this obviously does indicate the Catalan side have dropped more points against other teams than Los Merengues.

Perhaps now is a good time to have a look at the record points haul in La Liga. One can look at that from five different points of view, the majority of them favouring Real Madrid. The absolute highest number of points obtained is 92, by Real Madrid in the 1996/97 season. Back then, the Spanish top flight contained 22 teams, meaning Real had 42 games to get to that tally. The highests points total in a 38-game league, as has been the case ever since 1997/98 was set at 87 by last season's all-conquering Barcelona side.

Then there's the point of view in which the old 2-points-for-a-win is recalculated under the 3-1-0 system. This way, Real Madrid's 1987/88 record of 28-6-4 would've yielded 90 points from 38 games, i.e. less than Barcelona last season. Furthermore, in 1986/87 La Liga split into three parts after 34 games, with the top six teams playing another round of home and away games against each other. These 44 league games in total were played under the 2-1-0 system, with Real ending up as champions with a 27-12-5 record, which would've been worth 93 points under the new points scoring system.

Finally, during the 1960/61 campaign, Real scored 52 out of a possible 60 points, which, at 86.67 appears to be the highest percentage of points scored relative to the maximum points haul. For completeness' sake, 1960/61 translates as 84.44% under the three points for a win system (76/90).

Now, just as Lionel Messi is on his way to silencing his doubters and taking up his place among the truly greats in history, Barca could shut everyone up by getting at least 19 points from their last seven games. If they do so, they'll pass all absolute, relative and recalibrated records. If they do manage to will ALL remaining matches, they'll even break the magical and probably impossible 100 points barrier. Now THAT would be quite something, wouldn't it?

Original match preview

Another automatic pick for the Key Games feature I suppose. The first meeting between these two sides this season was overshadowed by Copa Sudamericana action, but there are no such distractions now. And if there were, they'd still play second fiddle to the game that could well decide the desination of the Spanish title this season.

Back in November, Barcelona won 1-0 courtesy of Zlatan Ibrahimovic' goal. For a good few weeks, both sides have been level on points, which, unless I've missed a serious change of tie-breaking rules in La Liga, means Barca top the table on head-to-head results. Yet almost every source on the internet has Real top on goal difference.

Ah well, whatever. The title and the Oosterpark Rankings points are handed out at the end of the season, not three quarters into it. Should either side secure victory the coming weekend, they'll be well on their way to the championship. Real would salvage something from a reason that will ultimately qualify as a failure even if they win the title. How extreme that failure will be seen probably depends on whether or not Barcelona have the last laugh in the Champions League final at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu should they reach it.


Saturday 3 April 2010, English Premier League, Game 33

  Manchester United
   1 - 2    Chelsea  

Following a 2-1 away win at Old Trafford, which completes Chelsea's first league double over Manchester United in 5 years, the Stamford Bridge outfit are now in pole position for the English Premier League trophy. As luck would have it, I was due to pick up my sister-in-law from an airport a full match distance away from home 10 minutes before kickoff, so had to do with a handful of radio flashes and the odd SMS from the webmaster of So I'm not in a position to judge the fairness of the outcome of this vital top-of-the-table clash, or to say something useful about the doubts over either Chelsea's or United's second half goals.

Chelsea are now the only one among the three title contenders who have their fate in their own hands. As a result, both the all-time top-40 and the 2,000 points barrier remain a realistic target for the Blues between now and mid May.

Original match preview

To stay with the Easter theme, Arsenal's title hopes may have been resurrected as many times as they have been declared dead and buried, but when it comes to Chelsea's ambitions, surely the West Londoners feel that defeat at Old Trafford will crucify their hopes of regaining the championship after three years of Manchester United rule.

Thanks to the man in charge at the time of Chelsea's last title, the Blues have all week to prepare for the clash that signals the start of the business end of the season, while United have Champions League distractions in the form of a visit to Bayern München to deal with on Tuesday.

Goals are expected, with Wayne Rooney on 26 league goals for United, closely followed by Didier Drogba who has netted 24 times for Chelsea this Premiership campaign.

As for the impact on the Oosterpark Rankings: Chelsea are taking the hard way up the all-time table, their European elimination meaning the English League and Cup double is required to enter the top-40. United, on the other hand, won't gain any places with what would be a record fourth title on the trot, depending on international success for further improvement to their overall ranking.


Saturday 27 March 2010, Portuguese SuperLiga, Game 24

   1 - 0    Sporting Braga  

Benfica took a major step towards a first league title since 2005, and only their second in 16 years, when centre-half Luisão scored the only goal of the top-of-the-table clash with Braga in the closing minute of the first half.

The champions-elect side were in control for most of the game. While over 60% possession isn't uncommon for a home side in any game, the way Benfica played confirmed, a week after their 3-0 demolition of FC Porto in the League Cup Final, that As Águias are currently the best Portuese club football has to offer.

While Braga came close to an equaliser once, Benfica could, and probably should, have doubled their lead before the end of the game. Ultimately, 1-0 still equals three points though, which means a six point lead over their defeated opponents who remain on course for a ticket to the Champions League qualifiers.

Original match preview

Record champions Benfica appear to have put sufficient daylight between themselves and FC Porto, the club who have made huge inroads into their all-time lead in the past 20 years, to put the side in blue out of this year's title race.

In most seasons, that would leave Sporting Clube de Portugal as the other usual suspect to fight out the destination of the Portuguese title with, but in 2009/2010 that role is reserved for Braga. Their entire palmarès consists of the 1966 Taça de Portugal win. A handful of European appearances, never surving the round of 16 on any of those occasions, complete an all-time Oosterpark Rankings points haul of 105, which currently leaves them in 542nd place.

That in contrast with Benfica, who dropped out of the top-10 in 2002, but have River Plate and Scotland's Old Firm in sight again. Delivering either the Portuguese crown or the Europa League in which they're still involved, would see the Lisbon side overtake at least one of the sides ahead of them in the all-time table.

In the league, they're three points clear of Braga, seven games out. As Braga beat Benfica 2-0 in their first league encounter earlier this season and head-to-head results being the first tie-breaker when teams are level on points, the visitors will go top if they win this game. A home win will all but secure the championship for Benfica.

Braga goalkeeper Eduardo dos Reis Carvalho has conceded just 14 goals in 23 league outings and has to be the main obstacle in the way of South American strikers Oscar Cardozo and Javier Saviola as they attempt to add to their combined season tally of 30 goals.


Sunday 7 March 2010, French Ligue 1, Game 27

  Girondins de Bordeaux
   1 - 1    Montpellier HSC  

I missed the game, but by the sound of it, Montpellier aren't interested in winning the league this season. What other explanation could one offer for missing not one, but TWO penalty kicks in the same match?

An hour into the game, the visitors paid the price for their sloppiness (and against 10 men, one might add), as Marouane Chamakh put league leaders Bordeaux 1-0 up. Despite Montpellier's eventual stoppage time equaliser, they will very much consider the outcome to be two points lost, rather than one gained.

The two sides are still level on points at the top of the table, on 52 each, but Bordeaux have two games in hand. The first of these takes place on Wednesday, against Auxerre. Even they are in with a shot at the title, in sixth place, but only four points behind. Credit where it's due: the French league is pretty exciting this season.

Original match preview

Across Europe, league championships are entering their final third and many current league leaders can make life difficult, perhaps even impossible, for their nearest challengers over the coming weeks.

The March 7 clash between Bordeaux and Montpellier is one of these key games. At the time of writing, the pair are first and second in Ligue 1, although there is a round of games before this meeting. The defending champions are on course for a seventh league title in their history, with their expected main challengers from Lyon and Marseille at least six dropped points behind. Surprise package Montpellier are in second, and Lille too are ranked higher than the two (arguably) bigger Olympiques.

Bordeaux will surely start the game as favourites against their newly-promoted opponents, especially given that they've already won the first league meeting between the two this season (1-0 at Stade de la Mosson in December). A renewed win should realistically put the visitors out of title contention, but an upset would throw the race wide open once again, for the other challengers as well.


Wednesday 24 February 2010, South African Premier Soccer League, Game 29

  Supersport United
   1 - 2    Wits University  

Supersport United did eventually retain their South African title, but in the strangest of circumstances. A win against lowly-ranked Wits was expected, yet Mark Haskins' 25-yard scorcher crashed in off the underside of the crossbar on 27 minutes to give the visitors the lead. Not ten minutes later, Brian Umony levelled the scores at 1-1 at about the 4th time of asking. They all count, though.

Midway through the second half, Kadi grabbed the winner: a true predator's goal as he moved quicker than the two defender surrounding him to tuck in an excellent cross from the left (dispatched with the outside right foot!) inside the six yard box.

That should've taken the title race to the final round of fixtures, on March 6. After all, their rivals Mamelodi Sundowns played at bottom side Jomo Cosmos. Yet the knowledge that defeat for Jomo would mean certain relegation from the top flight spurred them on to a match-winning performance (2-0). That result kept Supersport's four-point lead intact, enough to secure a third domestic crown on the bounce.

Original match preview

It was difficult to pick a game of the week for the upcoming seven days, with most leagues still some way off a championship decision, and not offering classics. So we might as well choose to focus on the place to be this summer: South Africa.

The ABSA Premiership may not generate as much interest as the FIFA World Cup will do in June and July, but it is about to be decided. The destiny of the championship trophy looks to be Supersport United for the third season in a row. They top the table, four points clear of their only remaining challengers Mamelodi Sundowns. As the penultimate round of games takes place on Wednesday, the title will be secured with a win at home to third-bottom Wits University.

Not too many players on display in the South African league will be considered "household names" by European or South American standards, but Supersports United do have 32-year-old Glen Salmon on their books, having returned to the club a year-and-a-half ago following a decade in Europe where he played for NAC Breda and FC Groningen in the Eredivisie, and PAOK in the Greek Super League.


Friday 19 February 2010, Torneo Clausura, Game 5

  Vélez Sarsfield
   3 x 0    Independiente  

Last year's Clausura champions Vélez made light work of the challenge of Independiente. Juan Martinez rounded off a nice attack from the left side to break the deadlock on stroke of half-time. Moralez then converted a penalty kick 20 minutes into the second half, effectively putting the game beyond the visitors. Santiago Silva rubbed further salt into the wounds by adding a third with two minutes left.

The hosts remain in first place, and are one of three unbeaten teams a quarter into the latest campaign.

Original match preview

The Clausura tournament of the Argentine league is only four games old, but Vélez Sarsfield already fired some warning shots at their rivals and top the table at this early stage. On Friday, they face an Independiente side whose last title was eight years ago but still find themselves in 11th place in the all-time club world rankings. Of more immediate interest to them is that the Avellaneda side are in second place in the league, making this game a genuine top-of-the-table clash.

Furthermore, the match at Estadio José Amalfitani doubles up as the 330th Recopa Mundial tie, with Vélez seeking to defend their crown for the second time in a row, and Independiente attempting to recapture it five-and-a-half years after they last held the title.


Saturday 13 February 2010, Bundesliga, Game 22

  Bayern München
   3 - 1    Borussia Dortmund  

It was about time Mohamed Zidan reminded Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp why he took him with him to the Westfalenstadion (none of this title sponsorship rubbish here). The Egyptian's 5th minute opener at Bayern München wasn't enough to interrupt Bayern's winning streak though, as Dutch duo Mark van Bommel and Arjen Robben scored either side of half-time to put the Bavarian giants ahead.

Midway through the second period, Mario Gomez put the result beyond doubt, as Bayern matched Leverkusen's result to continue their neck-and-neck race at the top of the Bundesliga. The two main title candidates are separated by goal difference (+30 to +29) with 12 games to go, and will meet each other in Leverkusen on April 10.

Original match preview

Germany's two most recent European Cup winners go head-to-head on Saturday, both with different targets to pursue. Bayern are in full swing after a difficult start to the season and joined Nevermeister Bayer Leverkusen at the top of the table on 45 points in the most recent round of matches. Having won their last 10 games (in all competitions), Louis van Gaal's men will be looking to extend that run over a Dortmund side who themselves were on a great run until they lost heavily in Stuttgart the other week and threw away a 2-1 lead against Frankfurt in their most recent outing.

While Bayern are in the championship hunt, Borussia have their work cut out trying to qualify for next season's Champions League. The potential increase in number of CL tickets available to the Bundesliga from three to four appears to come one season too late for the 1997 World Champions, as their arch-rivals Schalke currently hold third place, six points ahead of Dortmund (and Hamburger SV).


Sunday 7 February 2010, Premier League, Game 25

   2 - 0    Arsenal  

Didier Drogba is back from international duty, and shrugged off any frustrations regarding his role in Côte d'Ivoire's failure to lift the African Cup of Nations with a vital brace of goals against Arsenal. The first came just over 7 minutes into the game, as Chelsea captain and now former England skipper John Terry headed Florent Malouda's corner into Drogba's path at the far post.

A visibly frustrated Arsene Wenger must have seen defeat coming, but in all honesty Arsenal did have their moments in reply to the Blues' opener. Yet midway through the first half, Drogba again too centre stage, making Gael Clichy look like a fool before rifling in his and Chelsea's second goal of the afternoon. That was pretty much game, set and match for the home side. After failing to extend their lead in the second half, the Stamford Bridge outfit found themselves under a bit of late pressure from the Gunners, but never in serious danger of not re-taking the Premiership lead from Manchester United.

As for Arsenal: they've been written off in the title race a couple of times already this season, and a nine-point deficit probably is too much to make up in the remaining 13 games. Yet their run-in becomes considerably easier once they get the Liverpool game out of the way in midweek. Only a 100% record from this point onward will see them total 88 points, which has been enough for the title in every single season since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams.

Since the TV rights holders of the Premier League are, shall we say, "a bit sensitive" when it comes to protecting their multi-million pound investment, no YouTube clip of the goals will be provided this time.

Original match preview

As the Premier League title race heats up, Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge knowing that to revive any hopes of keeping it a three-horse race, nothing short of a win will do.

They take on a Chelsea side that has their African stars available again, though it's not as if the league leaders have missed them at all, registering results like 5-0 and 7-2 in their absence.

Having just lost against Manchester United, the Gunners may yet hold the key to preventing United making it an unprecedented four league titles in a row.

The Manchester club has attained such a high all-time ranking that further improvement is possible only through major silverware every year, while Arsenal's quest to return to the top-20 also requires more than "just" a league title. Of the three contenders, only the Blues will currently improve their all-time position with a domestic trophy.

After a terrible run of predictions at the end of last year, we'll refrain from backing Carlo Ancelotti to do the double over Arsène Wenger. ;-)

Saturday 19 December 2009, FIFA Club World Cup, Final

   2 - 1 AET    Estudiantes  

A delayed match report for a World Cup Final usually wouldn't have seen you miss much, as half the world would usually watch the game in the first place. But since it was the Club World Cup at stake, not nearly as many people bothered. In fact, at least over here in Europe, a lot of countries were completely denied live coverage. It wasn't until 30 minutes into the game I understood the match was broadcast on a Bulgarian channel available through satellite TV.

Just in time, then, to see Estudiantes take the lead through a powerful Mauro Boselli header. That signalled the start of a more defensive approach by the Argentine side, and it was effectively all Barcelona from there on. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was among those to come close to equalising, while Thierry Henry followed up his handballing efforts against Ireland with a blatant dive on the edge of the Estudiantes penalty area that earned him a well-deserved yellow card.

The Spanish outfit eventually made their pressure tell, though they left it awfully late. In the 89th minute, Pedro finally found a way past Albil in the Argentine goal, when his looping header took the game into extra time. Tiredness took its toll, Estudiantes captain Juan Sebastian Veron looking especially knackered. Inevitably, Lionel Messi took centre stage in the additional 30 minutes. Having already gone close with a free kick in the first part of extra time, he then popped up on the six yard line with ten minutes left to play, to chest home another dangerous inswinging cross from the right, Daniel Alves going into the history books as the provider of the goal that finally made Barcelona the best club side in the world.

As far as the Oosterpark Rankings go, Barcelona now break the 7,000 points barrier as they close the gap to Real Madrid to 2,495 points. That is Real's smallest lead since 1997, the year before Real started winning European Cups again. Percentage-wise, at 26.1, Real have only led by a smaller margin in the very first year of their reign: 1958. The 20.2% at the time was just over 400 points though, while their current lead still requires Barcelona to conquer all before them until the end of 2012 to stand any chance of dethroning their eternal rivals.

Original match preview

So despite half a decade worth of expanded Club World Cups, once again the title match comes down to Europe v South America. Both Barcelona and Estudiantes lived up to their role as pre-tournament favourites to make it to the final. Today's rivals' Intercontinental and Club World Cup records aren't very impressive, having won the trophy only once between them. That was when Estudiantes beat Manchester United in 1968. The following two seasons, the La Plata side lost to AC Milan and Feyenoord (which was still written "Feijenoord" at the time, but then, we still had black and white TV too).

Barcelona failed in their two attempts to capture the trophy: in 1992 São Paulo were too strong, and in 2006 their second attempt at a world title was thwarted by Internacional. Perhaps the Spanish outfit will be more successful against non-Brazilian opposition.

Both sides earned 10 Oosterpark Rankings points for their place in the final (yet to be processed), and a further 60 are up for grabs for the winner. Neither side will gain a place in the all-time rankings if they lift the trophy, but will do useful work in closing the gap to the team directly above them.


Wednesday 16 December 2009, FIFA Club World Cup, Semi Final

   3 - 1    Atlante  

As expected, Barcelona came through their semi final against Atlante with relative ease. Like in their final Champions League group game a week before, the Catalans decided to make the game interesting by falling behind in the opening minutes. Guillermo Rojas was responsible for the Mexican side's 5th minute opener, but half an hour later Sergio Busquets drew the European champions level.

Barca's most valuable player, Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi, wasn't fully fit and started on the bench. Eight minutes into the second half, he entered the field of play, all of two minutes later he made it 2-1 to Barcelona. Midway through the second half, Iniesta's good work enabled Pedro to put the game beyond Atlante.

Original match preview

Barcelona start their tournament with this semi final game against CONCACAF's reigning champions Atlante. No one should be surprised the Spanish giants are the bookmakers' favourites, and although quoting the Mexican side as being 7/1 outsiders looks harsh at first sight, this is the fifth Club World Cup in its current format and we're yet to see the first non-European/non-South American side reach the final. Furthermore, Atlante aren't exactly the main suppliers of Mexican internationals and failed to qualify for their domestic title playoffs in both the Clausura 2008/2009 and Apertura 2009/2010 tournaments.

Despite starting with "One of football's strongest characteristics - often a blessing, occasionally a curse - is that the best side does not always win." even Tim Vickery over at the reckons Atlante defeating Barcelona "might be taking that idea a little too far".


Friday 11 December 2009, FIFA Club World Cup, Quarter Final

  Pohang Steelers
   2 - 1    TP Mazembe  

Tout Puissant Mazembe let a half-time lead slip as they succumbed to a Denilson-inspired second half fightback by Asian champions Pohang Steelers, who secured a semi final berth against Estudiantes. The game was marked by a lot of chances at either end, and the deadlock could´ve been broken long before Mbenza Bedi did so with a spectacular long range shot on 28 minutes.

A mere five minutes into the second half, the scores were level when Denilson headed in at the far post, from a cross that neatly cleared the Mazembe goalkeeper and his defensive aides. The African champions should´ve been back in front a little later, but Mulota Kabangu wasted a glorious chance.

More chances fell to either side during the remained of the game, but only Denilson found the back of the net again, when he added his and Steelers´ second 12 minutes from the end.

Original match preview

Without wishing to be disrespectful to Auckland City or Al-Ahli (Dubai), who meet in a preliminary round two days earlier, the first real match of the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup is the clash between the champions of Africa and Asia, who do battle for the right to face Copa Libertadores champions Estudiantes four days later.

Both TP Mazembe and Pohang Steelers received proper coverage on during their respective continental finals, and from what little images filter through to Europe, there doesn't appear to be much between the two sides.

With the Club World Cup serving as THE platform on which the lower rated confederations can improve their Oosterpark Rankings valuation, both in relation to each other as well as on a global scale, it will be interesting to see who comes through this tie, and how difficult they will be able to make life for the South American champions next week. And if pride, honour and all-time club world rankings points are not enough incentive, one imagines at least half a million dollar difference in prize money between a place in the semi finals and quarter final failure will make the teams involved give all they have to offer this Friday.

Saturday 5 December 2009, Serie A, Game 15

   2 - 1    Internazionale  

Not unexpectedly, the Derby d'Italia was a fairly ill-tempered event. Eight yellow cards plus a red one and a few handbags at dawn moments were as amusing as the match itself. On top of that, The Special One was sent to the stands for, well, basically being right about the free kick that led to a sloppy opening goal eventually credited to Felipe Melo. Inter soon drew level through Eto'o, 1-1 being the half-time score.

Claudio Marchisio then grabbed his second goal of the season in styleful fashion, just before the hour mark. Ultimately, that proved to be the winning goal, as the bickering continued at a more furious pace than the game itself. The 2-1 win puts Juventus back in the title race, though they are still five points behind Internazionale. AC Milan split the two sides, a 3-0 win this weekend taking them to within four points of the champions of the past four seasons.

Original match preview

No one will be crowned Italian champions this weekend, it's too early in the season for that still, but having lost at Cagliari last weekend, Juventus dropped to third place and trail the reigning champions by 8 points already. A home defeat against José Mourinho's men would therefore all but kill what title hopes the Turin side may still harbour. But while Inter seem close to untouchable in Serie A, that quite clearly isn't the case in the Champions League, the same Champions League in which Juventus are well-placed to reach the last 16. The Bianconeri can draw positives from that.

The Nerazzurri on the other hand will, whatever their manager says, be content with a point and no further injuries ahead of their midweek decider with Rubin Kazan. They are already likely to be without Dutch star Wesley Sneijder against Juve, and additional damage to the squad must be avoided if Mourinho's hopes of a swift second CL title are to survive the winter.

Sunday 29 November 2009, Campeonato Brasileiro, Game 37

   0 x 2    Flamengo  

São Paulo had it all in their own hands but slipped to a 4x2 defeat at Goiás, and may now realistically kiss their title hopes goodnight, for they have slipped to fourth place, behind new leaders Flamengo. The Rio side managed to defeat Corinthians on their own pitch. Ze Roberto scored midway through the first half, although it remained a nervous event until Leo Moura made sure from the penalty spot in the last minute. Having done the hard work, Flamengo have a straightforward (yet by no means simple) task on the final day: secure a home win against Grêmio to be crowned national champions for the first time since 1992.

Original match preview

The Campeonato Brasileiro could be decided this Sunday, and that is why this game takes precedence over the Barcelona v Real Madrid clash of titans. Funnily, there's no chance of the trophy being awarded to Flamengo at the end of their game at Corinthians. That is because with two games left, they are the ones in second place, behind São Paulo by a solitary point. With the reigning and record champions looking to break new ground in becoming the first Brazilian side to win the league four times in a row, it takes a brave man to bet against them winning their game at mid-table Goiás this Sunday. If that happens, Flamengo need to win as well to take the title race to the last day.

Both Corinthians and Flamengo won their State Championship earlier this year, and the home side even added the Copa do Brasil to their trophy cabinet in 2009, so neither will be unhappy with how the season has unfolded. We´ll see both sides in action in the 2010 Copa Libertadores too, so no worries on that front for either club. Both sides have a former international player in their attack who won´t have given up hope of a place in Brazil´s 2010 World Cup squad, (Ronaldo for the home side and Adriano for the visitors), so there really is a lot to play for for all concerned.

Wednesday 25 November 2009, Copa Sudamericana, Final First Leg

  LDU Quito
   5 x 1    Fluminense  

"Away win in the first leg, without killing the tie completely"... That was one glorious pre-match prediction wasn't it? Yet less than a minute into the game, it didn't look that stupid a guess. Marquinho needed under 60 seconds to give the visitors the lead when Alexander Domínguez failed to hold on to the first shot Fluminense fired on goal. Marquinho slotted home the rebound making it 0x1.

Then, the Édison Méndez show started. Three beautiful, high quality goals later (21', 44' and on the hour), Liga were in control of the game. A strong but refused penalty appeal later, Méndez turned provider, enabling Franklin "Mago" Salas to make it four, again with a good strike. As if overturning a three-goal deficit wasn't enough of a challenge for Fluminense ahead of the second leg in the Maracanã, they found themselves on the receiving end of yet another long-range goal three minutes from time. Ulises de la Cruz made it 5x1 on the night, and that surely means the tie is done and dusted.

Original match preview

Let's go back to South America then, shall we? Over the next two midweeks, we'll discover the identity of the new Copa Sudamericana champions. The two-legged final, not poisoned by the away goals rule, will be contested by Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito and Fluminense. The first leg will take place at LDU's Estadio Casa Blanca on Wednesday, and it appears the bookmakers haven't picked their favourite yet. Liga looked impressive in the return leg of the semi finals and have home advantage, but Flu are really on fire in the past several weeks.

Assuming (a dangerous thing in football) they will continue their unbeaten and indeed winning run at bottom-of-the-table Sport Recife in the Campeonato Brasileiro on Sunday, the Rio side should be on such a high it will make up for the 3,000 metres elevation of the Quito pitch. That in contrast to the home side's confidence, which could not possible be in as good a shape, going into the match with one win in five (yes, that 7x0 butchering of River Plate Montevideo). Does the old adage that the form book goes out of the window for cup finals apply to two-legged affairs as well? We'll find out soon enough.

Since we're not here for sitting on the fence, here´s the Oosterpark Rankings prediction: away win in the first leg, without it killing the tie completely. Incidentally, the final is a rematch of the 2008 Copa Libertadores final, which LDU eventually won on penalties.

Saturday 21 November 2009, Russian Premier League

  Rubin Kazan
   0 - 0    Zenit St. Petersburg  

A goalless draw against Zenit proved to be enough for Rubin Kazan to retain the Russian league title with a game to spare. The premature title decision was made possible by the last Moscow side to win the championship, CSKA. They defeated the only remaining challengers to Rubin's crown, Spartak, 3-2 at Luzhniki, which increases the gap between first and second to five points with three to play for.

Zenit won't be too unhappy with the result either, as they managed to hang on to third place that carries the final Champions League ticket for the time being, albeit on goal difference. The match itself didn't throw up enough highlights to fill a proper video with, but the title celebrations make it worth including.

Original match preview

The last major European league title to be awarded in 2009 is the Russian championship, which is Rubin Kazan's to lose now. Four points clear with two games left, the reigning champions host the side they dethroned last year, knowing a win will suffice to keep the title away from Moscow's giants for the third year in a row.

Zenit, however, won´t just roll over and die, as they are in a three-way fight (or four if you believe in miracles/are a fan of CSKA) for the last Russian ticket to the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League. Currently two points clear of FK Moskva and Lokomotiv, and four of CSKA, Zenit probably need some kind of result to keep things in their own hands ahead of the final round of games next week. That game is against Spartak, currently in second place, so the St. Petersburg side definitely have the toughest run-in.

Just to show how long the road to the very top for Rubin still is: they weren't even ranked until 2006, when the club entered the Oosterpark Rankings in 3175th place. 2007 saw them rise to 2833rd, but it wasn't until their first league title last year that they really appeared on the radar, entering the top-1000 (738th). Even if they are to successfully defend their crown this year, Rubin will still only just secure a place among the top-500. In that light, their current Champions League efforts are even more impressive.


Wednesday 11 November 2009, Copa Sudamericana, Semi Final First Leg

  Cerro Porteño
   0 x 1    Fluminense  

Fluminense left it rather late, and perhaps too late after all, but really make serious work of saving their season in the last months of the year. Unbeaten in 10 consecutive matches in all competitions now, beating the drop in the league should not be considered beyond them (though catching up six points in four games remains a tough task). And that 10th unbeaten match on the trot was on Wednesday, when they beat Cerro 1-0 away from home in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana, which surely ought to suffice for a place in the final.

The only goal of the game was scored by Frederico Chaves Guedes, a.k.a. Fred, who is back in South America after a 3½ year spell with Olympique Lyon. After a long kick by his goalkeeper, Fred picked up the ball just inside the Cerro half, ran towards the edge of the penalty area and placed it past the goalkeeper. That was with 15 minutes left on the clock, and no further goals were scored.

A day later, River Plate (Montevideo) beat LDU Quito 2x1, with another star returning from Europe, Édison Méndez of PSV Eindhoven fame, grabbing what could prove to be the decisive away goal.

Original match preview

Before attention turns to the Club World Cup in December, the Copa Sudamericana needs a new holder. Since we last featured a game in the competition, the field has been cut to four. Our semi final first leg game of choice is the clash between Cerro Porteño and Fluminense, ranked 81st and 64th in the world respectively. Both sides can move a handful of places up the top-100 by merely qualifying for the final, never mind the impact of actually lifting the trophy might have on their position.

Domestically, Cerro can forget about adding the Clausura title to the Apertura one they won earlier this year, so this is their chance to add some more silverware to their cabinet. Fluminense aren't going to win any domestic trophies either this season, as they're involved in a relegation battle in the Campeonato Brasileiro. That may affect the strength of the team the Rio side put out on Wednesday, though they are unbeaten in their six league games (eight in all competitions), which could be reason to stick with a successful eleven.

The first leg takes place in Asunción, with the return leg scheduled for the Maracanã a week later.

Thursday 19 November 2009, Copa Sudamericana, Semi Final Second Leg

  LDU Quito
   7 x 0 (8 x 2 on aggregate)    River Plate (Montevideo)  

So much for an evenly balanced tie... Liga made light work of their opponents from Montevideo, Claudio Bieler's penalty kick on 18 minutes edging them ahead on the night and on away goals in the tie, before taking total control before half-time (Carlos Espínola 28', Miller Bolaños 45+2' making it 3-0). The second half was as one-sided as the first, and the goal avalanche continued through Édison Méndez and Ulises de la Cruz, before Bieler grabbed his second and third late on.

The 7x0 victory sets up a final against Fluminense, whose 2x1 second leg win (3x1 on aggregate) told the story of their season: leaving it extremly late to save themselves. Gum and Alan scored on 90+3 and 90+5 minutes respectively to deny Cerro Porteño extra time and possibly penalties. At least there were no ridiculous handball goals robbing the brave visitors. Are you listening Sepp?

Original match preview

Honourable mention to the Mexican league game between Puebla and Toluca this Sunday, where the last playoff ticket will probably be sealed by the home side, but it's not big enough a game at this stage to be picked as featured game. Since the European leagues are off for the World Cup playoffs, and the Argentine and Brazilian leagues don't offer real clashes between frontrunners or otherwise crucial games, we'll just focus on the return legs of Copa Sudamericana's semi finals.

Unlike last week, the game of choice is the one between LDU Quito and River Plate (Montevideo), given that this tie is more evenly balanced at the moment. Liga are truely enjoying a golden age, and continue to surprise a lot of people by carrying on their trophy winning streak at international level this year, having won the Recopa already. Last year, the club's unexpected Copa Libertadores glory gained them over 100 places in the all-time rankings, moving up to 129th. The Ecuadorian outfit passed another 10 clubs already this calendar year, and stand to overtake big names such as Schalke 04 and Sampdoria when successful on Thursday. Less than a month from now, LDU could even reach the top-100, if they actually win the trophy. Chances are that in order to do so they'll have to do battle with their former captain Patricio Urrutia, who led them to their international successes of the past year before being transferred to... Fluminense!

Their semi final opponents are the less famous of the continent's two surviving ranked clubs called River Plate. The Uruguayan version entered the Oosterpark Rankings in 1950, but have yet to win a rated trophy of any kind. Almost consequently, they've spent all the time since outside the top-1000, but this season's Copa Sudamericana run has seen them end that mediocre existence. They're currently up to 842nd, where the field is so competitive a qualification for a major international final can easily be worth 200 places.


Wednesday 11 November 2009, Copa Sudamericana, Semi Final First Leg

  Cerro Porteño
   0 x 1    Fluminense  

Fluminense left it rather late, and perhaps too late after all, but really make serious work of saving their season in the last months of the year. Unbeaten in 10 consecutive matches in all competitions now, beating the drop in the league should not be considered beyond them (though catching up six points in four games remains a tough task). And that 10th unbeaten match on the trot was on Wednesday, when they beat Cerro 1-0 away from home in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana, which surely ought to suffice for a place in the final.

The only goal of the game was scored by Frederico Chaves Guedes, a.k.a. Fred, who is back in South America after a 3½ year spell with Olympique Lyon. After a long kick by his goalkeeper, Fred picked up the ball just inside the Cerro half, ran towards the edge of the penalty area and placed it past the goalkeeper. That was with 15 minutes left on the clock, and no further goals were scored.

A day later, River Plate (Montevideo) beat LDU Quito 2x1, with another star returning from Europe, Édison Méndez of PSV Eindhoven fame, grabbing what could prove to be the decisive away goal.

Original match preview

Before attention turns to the Club World Cup in December, the Copa Sudamericana needs a new holder. Since we last featured a game in the competition, the field has been cut to four. Our semi final first leg game of choice is the clash between Cerro Porteño and Fluminense, ranked 81st and 64th in the world respectively. Both sides can move a handful of places up the top-100 by merely qualifying for the final, never mind the impact of actually lifting the trophy might have on their position.

Domestically, Cerro can forget about adding the Clausura title to the Apertura one they won earlier this year, so this is their chance to add some more silverware to their cabinet. Fluminense aren't going to win any domestic trophies either this season, as they're involved in a relegation battle in the Campeonato Brasileiro. That may affect the strength of the team the Rio side put out on Wednesday, though they are unbeaten in their six league games (eight in all competitions), which could be reason to stick with a successful eleven.

The first leg takes place in Asunción, with the return leg scheduled for the Maracanã a week later.

Saturday 7 November 2009, Asian Champions League Final

  Al-Ittihad (Jeddah)
   1 - 2    Pohang Steelers  

It took nearly an hour to break the deadlock in the AFC Champions League Final between two sides hoping to break new ground and becoming the first three-time winners of Asia's primary cup competition. On 57 minutes, No Byung-Jun struck a free kick beautifully to open the score, though Ittihad's goalkeeper Mabrouk Zayed won't be happy it basically went through the wall to drop inside the near post. Eight minutes later, the score was 2-0 to the South Koreans, again from a set piece. Kim Jae-Sung curled in a free kick from the right and Kim Hyung-Il got on the end of it, sending a looping header past Zayed who was nailed to the ground.

On 74 minutes, Mohammed Noor gave the Saudi giants hope when he reacted quickest after Amine Chermiti's header came back off the crossbar, but that was as close as Ittihad came.

Pohang Steelers added 60 points to their Oosterpark Rankings tally, which does make them the third-highest ranked Asian team of all time for now. Asia's new record champions still have some catching up to do before they top their regional rankings though, as the side they defeated today are still over 100 points ahead, and the equivalent of about two further AFC Champions League titles behind Al-Hilal (Riyadh).

Original match preview

The two best clubs in the AFC Champions League go head-to-head for the trophy on Saturday, striving not only to become this season's kings, but the outright record winners of Asia's primary club competition. Both clubs are former back-to-back winners of the trophy: the South Koreans in 1997 and 1998, while the Saudis lived up to the number one in their club crest in 2004 and 2005.

Ittihad will enter the all-time top-200 should they prevail, and more importantly to them, bring themselves within striking range of arch-rivals Al-Hilal (Riyadh). Steelers, meanwhile, may yet finish the year as third-highest ranked Asian club of all-time if they lift the trophy on Saturday night.


Sunday 1 November 2009, African Champions League Final, 1st leg

   2 - 1    TP Mazembe   

Can a club be happy with a 2-1 win in the final of their continent's major cup competition? The jury will be out on that question until at least the coming Saturday, for 2-1 is the margin by which Heartland defeated Tout Puissant Mazembe in Owerri. But as rapid as their reaction to their guests' 23rd minute opener by Tresor Mputu Mabi was - the scores were level a minute later when King Osanga made it 1-1 almost straight from the kickoff - so slowly did their second goal come by. Uche Agba eventually made the Nigerian outfit's pressure tell in the 80th minute, but their fans won't sleep comfortable knowing there are at least 90 tough minutes in store in Lubumbashi on Saturday.

Of course, the two sides met twice in Group B of the CAF Champions League earlier this year. In what turned out to be the strongest group, both sides managed to win their home game against the other by two goals to nil. So TP Mazembe's away goal appears to be a real breakthrough. As no video clip of the actual final was available at the time of writing, you might as well have at look at the highlights from their September 12 meeting in Owerri:

Original match preview

By next weekend we'll not only know the new Asian club champions, but Africa's new rulers as well. The first final in eleven years not to feature a club from north of the Sahara, both Nigerian runners-up Heartland (who overcame last year's domestic champions Kano Pillars in the semi final) and Tout Puissant Mazembe, newly-crowned champions of DR Congo who upset Al-Hilal in Omdurman to lay the foundations of a first final appearance since 1970, have reason to be confident going into this two-legged affair.

Heartland will have home advantage in the first leg, as they did in 1988, when under their old name Iwuanyanwu Owerri, they took on EP Sétif. Back then, a 1-0 home win proved insufficient in Tunisia, a lesson they should remember this time around. Their opponents Tout Puissant were also known under a different name, sporting the extension "Englebert" at the time of their last genuine shot at the trophy. Unlike their Nigerian rivals, Tout Puissant did manage to get their name on the trophy before though: in 1967 and 1968.

Apart from the considerable glory of becoming the best club on the continent, there are also 60 Oosterpark Rankings points at stake, and of course a place at the Club World Cup in December.


Sunday 27 September 2009 (Archived on 04.11.2009)

10th anniversary update!

The Oosterpark Rankings celebrate 10 years of existence with a retroactive update that is the result of the completion of a decade-long research project into the historical development of football across the globe. Just two weeks short of the official 10th birthday of these all-time club world rankings (the journey began on October 10, 1999), we're satisfied the proposed modifications to the equivalence formula comparing different eras of football result in the last fine-tuning of the pre-1960 part of the rankings.

It might not surprise long-time followers of the Oosterpark Rankings that the net result of all this is a drop in ratings of the few British clubs who scored many/most of their points before World War II. They were the ones with most to lose, and unfortunately for them, they have. Fans of, say, Everton, Villa, Rangers and Celtic might want to look away now, or start protesting on the blog attached to this site, whichever takes your fancy... Rest assured we're not being anti-British here, for it's all of early-organised Europe that takes a hit in points for that period. The two Spanish giants at the very top of the all-time rankings suffer more than any English side, though not as much as the Old Firm (who nonetheless remain firmly in the top 15), and though Real Madrid still have such a healthy lead it will take years for any club to challenge them for top spot.

Of course, more than half a century of continental competitions have been the major reason we've seen the number of points available per year literally tenfold, so in terms of overall positions, not an awful lot will change. Furthermore, clubs that were dominant before WW2 rarely continue to win serious silverware in the 21st century, so they had already dropped down the all-time rankings a fair bit. The South American sides in the higher echelons profit the most from the re-calibration of the various eras, since they got their act together later on, and thus had fewer points to lose.

While we're fully aware stability is vital for any rankings system to be taken seriously, this update, which had been in the pipeline for a long time, was necessary to round off the basics of the project as initially envisaged all those years ago. It simply would not do to continue making the site cleaner and more user-friendly but ignoring the basic principles of the rankings themselves. So to all followers of the Oosterpark Rankings, past and present: thanks for your interest, and here's to the next ten years!


Wednesday 28 October 2009, Asian Champions League, Semi Final

   1 - 2 (1 - 4 on aggregate)    Pohang Steelers   

Any hopes of making the Asian Champions League final that Umm-Salal still harboured were killed 10 minutes into the second half of their second leg encounter with Pohang Steelers. That was the moment when on-loan striker Stevica Ristic got on the end of a useful through ball to slot the ball past the Qatari goalkeeper to grab a decisive away goal. Umm-Salal now needed four goals, and minutes later a great solo effort from Noh Byung-Joon upped the asking rate to five in half an hour. Game over then, although Ibrahima Nadiya did curl in a free kick from inches outside the box in the last minute to give the home side a consolation goal.

So it´s the South Korean outfit that may book their tickets to Tokyo, where, as expected, they will face an Al-Ittihad side that completed a double win over Nagoya Grampus (2-1 on the night to go through 8-3 on aggregate). The showpiece final takes place next Saturday, with both qualified sides scooping a useful 8 points for the all-time club world rankings.

Original match preview

In all honesty, the other semi final of the AFC Champions League would've been the featured game, if it wasn't for the small matter of the tie already being dead. Al-Ittihad (Jeddah) crushed Nagoya Grampus 6-2 in the first leg, effectively ending the Japanese side's hopes of an appearance in the final on home soil on 7 November, the first time since 2002 that Asia's leading club competition will have a one-leg showdown for the trophy. Instead, Saudi giants Ittihad will get their shot at an unprecedented third Asian title it seems.

They'll face either fellow two-time winners Pohang Steelers, who've returned to trophy-winning ways in South Korea in recent seasons, or Umm-Salal of Qatar. Both sides qualified for the Champions League by virtue of winning their respective domestic cups last year. For Umm-Salal, it was their first silverware and the start of an Oosterpark Rankings journey that has so far taken them to 1758th place, while their Korean opponents are ranked 329th at the time of writing, closing in on their high water mark of 313th.

Umm-Salal have their work cut out if they are to make it an Arab final, as they're 2-0 down from the first leg in the Far East. They do know how to knock South Korean sides out though, having eliminated FC Seoul in the previous round. Nevertheless, with the highest still involved goalscorer of the competition, Denilson Martins Nascimento, on their books, Steelers will be confident of grabbing the away goal that may put the tie beyond the Qatar outfit.


Thursday 8 October 2009, Torneo Apertura (ARG)

  Vélez Sarsfield
   1 x 0    Argentinos Juniors   

Maximiliano Nicol Moralez went down in Oosterpark Rankings history by scoring the only goal of the game picked as the 10th anniversary featured match. The 22-year-old Vélez midfielder struck five minutes before the interval to give the reigning champions all three points against Argentinos Juniors who may yet challenge for their first silverware in a generation.

As regular visitors may have noticed, this sad excuse for a match report is not only short, it's also rather late. And it doesn't come with a video clip of the goal either. I do have a fairly good excuse though, as on the afternoon of October 13, my wife gave birth to our first child. Yet despite spending virtually all my time at home since, I've not been able to do a lot of work on this site until the major worldwide update of the Oosterpark Rankings that just went live.

For now, you'll just have to do with a clip of Vélez's finest hour: their 1994 Intercontinental Cup triumph. Next week, attention will turn to the Asian Champions League semi finals.

Original match preview

As World Cup Qualifying throws a spanner in the club football works once more, there doesn't appear to be a genuine top drawer match on the calendar on the Oosterpark Rankings' 10th birthday (October 10). But international games or not, the Argentine league doesn't disappoint us too much by offering Vélez v Argentinos Juniors. With their Apertura championship approaching the halfway mark, the reigning champions host another rejuvenated club as both sides will be looking for three points to improve their title credentials. These clubs reached their zenith in the mid-1990s and mid-1980s respectively, and will be eager to return to the biggest stage in South American club football: the Copa Libertadores.

For added spice: both managers faced each other in the 1985 final of that tournament. Playing for América de Cali, Vélez manager Ricardo Gareca scored the goal that took the third (playoff) game between the Colombian side and Argentinos Juniors to penalties. In that shootout, Gareca again found the net, but it wasn't enough as the Argentine side, with their current commander-in-chief Claudio Borghi among them, converted all five of their attempts to win the series of spot-kicks 5-4.

Current South American champions Estudiantes, who do play on the 10th if one counts the difference in timezones between La Plata and Groningen, will see at least one of their rivals drop points and hope to benefit from a relatively easy home game against struggling Lanús.


Thursday 30 September 2009, Copa Sudamericana, 1/8th Final

  Universidad de Chile
   1 x 0 (2 x 1 on aggregate)    Internacional  

Holders Internacional received a bye to the second round, but like automatic invitees Boca Juniors and River Plate, did nothing to justify their special status, as the Porto Alegre side lost the second leg in Santiago to a Juan Manuel Olivera goal near half-time. While the Brazilian side could be forgiven giving priority to their Serie A campaign, where they're involved in a five-way title fight and will want to at least obtain one of the four tickets to the 2010 Copa Libertadores at stake, a great opportunity to add some handsome points to their all-time total went begging.

For balance's sake, having a Chilean side among the last eight is a nice boost for a competition too often criticised for being geared towards Brazilian and Argentinian sides. Universidad, fresh from winning their domestic Apertura title, now face Rio giants Fluminense in the quarter finals.

Original match preview

[none available]

Sunday 20 September 2009, English Premier League

  Manchester United
   4 - 3    Manchester City  

As the match preview on explained, for decades, the Manchester derby would not have been a serious contender for an Oosterpark Rankings Key Game tag. But what a game it was! City came back from behind three times, lastly as the four original minutes of stoppage time were about to start, but it still wasn't enough as Michael Owen struck on 90+6 to finally secure the three points. With it, City's 100% record died.

The game was action packed from start to finish, with the hosts grabbing early goals in both halves (Rooney 2', Fletcher 49'), and the visitors cancelling out both efforts. In the first half, Carlos Tevez made Ben Foster look like an amateur when enabling Gareth Barry to level the scores at 1-1 on 16 minutes. Craig Bellamy then slotted home City's second in reply to Fletcher. And if that wasn't enough, ten minutes after Fletcher made United's second half pressure and possession count, heading in a Ryan Giggs free kick, Bellamy appeared to have silenced the red half of Manchester when cooly slotting the ball past a seemingly insecure Foster once more. But it was the blue part of town that mourned at the delayed final whistle, when Owen had the last laugh.

Our prediction that the game wouldn´t finish with 22 players on the pitch didn´t come true, so let´s not jinx the stoppage time hero/villain (delete as applicable) by suggesting this may be the start of a fairytale comeback season that is bound to end with glory in Johannesburg on July 11, 2010.

Original match preview

For decades, the Manchester derby would not have been a serious contender for an Oosterpark Rankings Key Game tag. But while it's early days in the English Premier League, City look like (bear in mind this was written before the City v Arsenal game on Saturday 12 September kicked off) a much-improved side that won't be expected to win the league just yet, but must surely make serious progress this season. And from a blue point of view, it would be nice to throw a spanner in the works at Old Trafford as Manchester United, having already lost three precious points at newly promoted Burnley will be eager to secure derby spoils themselves so as not to let Chelsea build up too big an early lead. After all, it's not every season United can go on a 1000+ minutes clean sheet run to catch up.

A lot of attention will focus on Carlos Tevez, if he is available for selection that is, having switched from Red to Blue in the summer. Without him and Cristiano Ronaldo, United still appear to be looking for fresh creativity up front. Yet with a lot of attacking talent on either side, goals are expected, especially if's prediction the game won't end with 22 players on the pitch comes true!

Friday 11 September 2009, African Champions League (Group Stage)

  Al-Hilal (Omdurman)
   3 - 1    Al-Merreikh (Omdurman)  

Al-Hilal (Omdurman) all but secured their passage into the semi finals of the CAF Champions League with a 3-1 home win over city rivals Al-Merreikh that was only confirmed in the last fifteen minutes of the clash. Demba Barry's goal midway through the first half was cancelled out by Badr El-Din El Doud Abdalla Galag on the hour. Drawing level wasn't enough for the visitors though, as nothing short of all three points would have given the Sudanese champions a glimmer of hope of a place among the last four. But as so often in search of a priceless winner, the next goal fell at the other end, Omer Bakheet restoring Al-Hilal's advantage on 77 minutes. Nigerian striker Efosa Egwakun then made sure of victory by adding a third with five minutes remaining.

The result took Hilal to the magic threshold of 10 points, which 9 times out of 10 secures passage to the next phase in a four-team, six games group. Their semi final appearance could be confirmed by Sunday night if Kano Pillars win or draw at home to ZESCO United. If the Nigerians keep the points at the Sani Abacha Stadium they join Al-Hilal in the semi finals, while a draw will see Hilal qualified but the race for second taken to the last game. A Zambian win, finally, means both sides retain a mathematical chance of overtaking the Omdurman side.

Original match preview

In both 1987 and 1992, Al-Hilal Omdurman reached the final of the African Champions Cup, drawing 0-0 at home only to lose the away leg 2-0 to finish as runners-up to Al-Ahly (Cairo) and WAC Casablanca respectively. This year, the side who had to leave the Sudanese league title to Al-Merreikh for the first time in six years last November, may finally go one better and be crowned champions of the Black Continent. Al-Hilal currently leads Group A of the African Champions League on goal difference from Kano Pillars of Nigeria, having played them twice with both sides winning their home match. Over the next two weekends, Al-Hilal can secure their place in the semi final, but have to overcome their bitter domestic rivals Al-Merreikh on Friday to remain on course for that ticket to the last four.

As Al-Ahly suffered a shock elimination before the group stage, and the only other remaining Northern side, Étoile du Sahel, are currently outside the qualifying places in Group B, (sub)Saharan Africa is ready to take over. Tout Puissant Mazembe (DR Congo), leading group B ahead of another Nigerian side, Heartland of Owerri, will feel confident of taking over Al-Ahly's title, and back in Al-Hilal's group, Zambian champions ZESCO United also still harbour hopes of a place among the semi finalists. Realistically, only Zimbabwe's Monomotapa United, stuck at the foot of the Group B table, can forget about further progress.

Sunday 6 September 2009, Campeonato Brasileiro Série A

   1 x 2    São Paulo  

Reigning champions São Paulo came from 1-0 down at half time (Diego Renan 44') to secure a priceless victory in the chase of Palmeiras, as the title race in Brazil remains wide open. Marlos and Borges turned the game on its head in the last 30 minutes and kept São Paulo in the hunt, four points adrift of Palmeiras and three behind Internacional. The final score won't fill Copa Libertadores finalists Cruzeiro with a lot of confidence, as they'll play those two sides ahead of Brazil's highest ranked club next, meaning they may just be sucked back into a relegation dogfight.

That perhaps isn't what one expects of a side with the kind of quality and talent Cruzeiro have at their disposal, but it wouldn't be the first founding members of the Clube dos Treze to suffer the indignity of a season in Serie B. With 15 games left, there is plenty of time to turn things around, but a renewed appearance in the competition that so nearly saw Cruzeiro qualify for a Club World Cup appearance in the UAE in December appears out of the question now.

Original match preview

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(c) Mark de Vries , 1999-2010, All rights reserved. Page last modified: 23.05.2010.
Special thanks to Paulo Freitas for his invaluable insights in, and comments on Latin American football!

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