Thursday, April 30, 2009

Werder drop opening UEFA Cup semi-final 1-0 to Hamburg

The Green Whites fell victim to Martin Jol's HSV 1-0 at Weserstadion in the first-leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final clash.

In the second of the four Nord-derby "fests", HSV were in clear control of the opening half and took the lead just before the half-hour when Piotr Trochowski headed Guy Demel's cross to the far upper right corner. After being well out-played Werder started to gain composure but as echoed by Klaus Allofs, "This was just not our day today" and the final touches weren't there. In the final twenty minutes of the match Werder had match saving chances but both Markus Rosenberg and Claudio Pizzaro couldn't put the ball in the net.

Following the match Thomas Schaaf summarized the performance:

"We have to realise that a game consists of two halves. And you have to play your best in both."

One "away" goal down, Werder gets its chance to advance to the finals in Hamburg on 7 May.

Paris Saint-Germain's next step towards Europe

Following Paris Saint-Germain's tough draw against Lyonnais they move to the final month of campaign with a distinct opportunity for a Champions League spot. Tactically the stubborn draw against l'OL puts them in perfect position to overtake the defending champions given the relative strengths of the remaining schedule which for Claude Puel includes Marseille and Toulouse.

As Rennais visits Parc des Princes, Paul Le Guen is very aware of his sides opportunity. Speaking of les Rouge et Bleu chances against the visitors he said:

"We’ll be well prepared. We’ve had two days to rest after the match in Lyon. It was a chance to have a different kind of weekend, having played on the Friday. Now we need to get back to work. And look after our injured players too, because we’ll need the whole squad for the last games of the season."

Rennais has proven to be a top contender to a European spot this year. Despite the loss of their brilliant striker Jimmy Briand, they have retooled their lineup and capable of attacking brilliance. On Wednesday there were headed towards a draw against Bordeaux before a mind-numbing mental lapse in the last seconds, albeit questionably too long into added-time to allow a final strike goal.

"Rennes is a very athletic side, a good side with a balance of youth and experience. They’ve hardly lost any matches this season. But we’re hoping they’ll have one eye on the their French Cup final at the Stade de France."

On the injury front the Parisians are dealing with a series of possible absences including Claude Makélélé,Sammy Traoré, Jérôme Rothen and Clément Chantôme.

Leeds final test before playoffs

As Leeds welcomes Northampton Town to Elland Road Saturday afternoon, all eyes are keenly turned towards the playoffs that commence next week. Whether the Whites face the MK Dons or Millwall in the semi-finals Simon Grayson will use this as a dress rehearsal before the main event that commences on 8 May.

However despite the rallying cries and other media banter of finishing off the campaign with a victory, Leeds needs to hold back the reigns on Robert Snodgrass to ensure he is fully fit and anticipate a curmudgeonly approach by the visitors. Any thoughts of Northhampton being a casual observer in the final match day of the season needs to be cast aside as the Cobblers are in a relegation scrap and could be sent down should Brighton and Carlisle United come up victories. Northhampton manager Stuart Gray might be inclined to use a more defensive approach tactically with the notion of gutting out a an all-important point and Simon Grayson is best to given this consideration in his starting eleven.

All that aside for League One followers the title bout of the day is most assuredly Tranmere's visit of Scunthorpe United. With the Rovers only two points behind Scunthorpe in the final playoff spot this will be a massive test of wills.

Man City drives to Europa League berth

Following the Citizens solid 2-1 victory over Everton, Mark Hughes et al head into the weekends clash against Blackburn with a eye towards an Europa League berth. In the oddest set of circumstances as the tumultuous season with its many peak and valleys comes to a close Man City is only three points removed three points away from the final spot and whether it is through the drone of the very modest mid-table form of the Premier League or just plain luck, the opportunity for European Football burns bright.

Of Blackburn's year, it is coming to a rather uneventful conclusion that most Rovers supporters likely welcome its conclusion. The promise of last season results quickly turned in the wrong direction and without the yeoman service of Big Sam Allardyce stepping in mid December there is no telling where the club may have ended up. Stretching now over seventeen match-days the Big Sam led Rovers have returned to fine mid-table form and showing promise for the future. Curiously as Newcastle grapples with the gallows of relegation, their loss appears Blackburn's gain and in-time many will begin to realize the oft-criticized manager knew what he was doing.

For the match Mark Hughes will go forward without the services of young gun Daniel Sturridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Pablo Zabaleta and the complaining-one, Micah Richards.The question now looms which "City" team will show up, one capable of making a strong run in European football or the impostor that has shown up far too often.

Wolfsburg looks for three points against Hoffenheim

With Wolfsburg’s remarkable run in the Rückrunde coming to an end against Energie Cottbus, Felix Magath enters the final month of the campaign with his side holding a narrow three point advantage over Hertha BSC. On Saturday die Wölfe welcome free-falling Hoffenheim to the Volkswagen Arena with three points firmly targeted.

Despite holding the Bundesliga lead, Mr Magath has been cagey with the media, speaking of maintaining their goal towards fifth-place, all the while allowing other teams stand in-line for public attention. Through the past week whilst Bayern reached into Borussia Mönchengladbach's history for Jupp Heynckes to lead them in pursuit of the championship, Mr. Magath has done his best to avoid the limelight. While few in the English-speaking media might see the irony of the Wolfsburg leader rising to the top, while his eventual replacement with Bayern being replaced by a long-time Gladbach man, it should also be pointed out that Wolfsburg will not be satisfied with a "fifth place" finish and looking to cull the hopes with a resounding defeat of Hoffenheim.

For their visitors, 2009 has not been kind to them. The fairy-tale story of the little village side climbing to the heights of the Bundesliga has turned to into Alfred Hitchcock psychological thriller that is sometimes too painful to watch. Since the winter break they have won a single match and effectively turned 180º and fortunate to have built up enough points early, lest they would need to dealing with talk of relegation and the like.

Returning to last weeks affair, while Bojan Prašnikar’s forces did a superb job nullifying Wolfsburg's scoring trio of Edin Džeko, Zvjezdan Misimović and Grafite the same tactical plan is unlikely to be a template that will be successful again given its reliance upon slowing the match down with endless "phantom" fouls if not simply a poor day by the goal scorers. At this stage Wolfsburg has no notable omissions from Saturday's fixture as they look to restart their winning streak.

Genoa's Champions League quest starts with Sampdoria

Genoa's returns to the Champions League hunt as Sampdoria visits Stadio Luigi Ferraris Sunday evening. In the midst of a two match losing streak, including last weeks pithy display to relegation threatened Bologna, the Rossoblu have dropped to fifth in the table and showing all the signs of a club stalling out just before the finish line. While supporters will look back fondly to the successes of the campaign, the dropping of the last two matches have been very costly and if reversed could have seen threaten Juventus or AC Milan by seasons-end. However all of that is another tale of the rear-view mirror that need not be discussed and Gian Piero Gasperini must address the final five matches with conviction.

As Genoa learns to fly in European football it must learn to kill off lesser opponents but equally be able to play with a broader verse of styling. The recent dip in form is due to clubs understanding their tactical approach and countering with appropriate measures. With the final five weeks of the campaign if they are to twist the screw and overtake Fiorentina for a spot in the Champions League they will need to play with greater confidence and be able to adjust to rapidly changing environments. On the positive side their remaining schedule is made for a five match undefeated run but first they need to get past Sampdoria.

Newcastle's next step in survival goes through Anfield

Each year as the relegation battle heats up, one typically team steps-up with a series of top-shelf performance as they look for the "great escape." While there are countless examples across the leagues, the basic similarities are the same as a team rises to the summons their best matches for the year and somehow manages to climb above the drop zone.

Unfortunately at this time that "script" hasn't been followed as the Premier League's bottom table sides, excluding West Brom, are effectively serving up performances that will do little to change their fate. This little oddity has provided Newcastle a morsel of hope as they look to leap over free-falling Hull City and avoid the drop.

With four matches remaining in Newcastle's death struggle, Saturdays test at Anfield is quite obviously the most challenging one but in the throes of needing points they need to utilize a wise tactical approach and look to squeeze out a draw at the very least. While such a task even in the most dowdy of defensive efforts is a great one, the Magpie's need to play with a level of intensity that is befitting of saving the club from relegation and dare I say, deserving of their manager Mr. Allan Shearer. Of course the bigger question is still, do they have it in their claret to play with the level of intensity that number 9 did through his years. While there is little debating that the quality has been lacking and certainly finishing ability seems to have flown the coop what is most alarming is the lack of intensity that has been shown of late. If Newcastle is to avoid the highlight "showdowns" next year between Roy Keane's Ipswich Town, Nottingham Forest or newly promoted Leicester City the level of intensity needs to be amplified exponentially.

Returning to the relegation "battle" of all clubs, it appears to be one in which the combatants, excluding West Brom, are merely looking to "punch the clock" and it is very possible that we might see a side survive relegation with one of the lowest point totals in recent history. In a curious piece of scheduling trivia to add to this concern both Middlesbrough, Hull City and Newcastle face two European destined clubs who, in the midst of the fight for points will not be so forgiving to their woeful colleague's.

If things weren't complicated enough against Liverpool, injuries have reared their ugly head as Oba Martins, Mark Viduka and Jonás Gutiérrez are all questionable with José Enrique out although they will receive a boost with Joey Barton returning to the starting eleven.

Dwight Lodeweges last match in-charge at Philips Stadion

As N.E.C. visits Philips Stadion on Saturday afternoon, PSV has their Europa League hopes in their own hands. Entering the final two weeks of the Dwight Lodeweges-era in Eindhoven the defending champions have rolled off five consecutive victories, including the 6-2 destruction of Ajax and overtaken Heerenveen for fourth in the table.

Without question the final two weeks are considerably lighter in mood as the club has scheduled complete days off for Wednesday and Thursday, only to return to a pre-match training session on Friday. Regarding absences Balázs Dzsudzsák due to suspension with further injury questions of Jérémie Bréchet and Stef Nijland. The match will also mark Jason Čulina's farewell to the Eindhoven faithful as after four years of service he will be joining Gold Coast United of the A-League.

In this final home date, many supporters will be looking forward to next season and a chance to win back the title under Fred Rutten's leadership. However of special note in his final match in-charge of PSV at home, Mr. Lodeweges is deserving of the utmost accolades as he has done a remarkable job leading PSV to European football.

Porto looks to close out fourth successive title

Os Dragões return to play on Sunday as they travel to face Marítimo. As the Liga season enters it's final month Jesualdo Ferreira have a solid four point lead over Sporting as they look to continue their complete their fourth successive championship.

Porto is nearing fully-fit and should have no concerns going into the match with both Hulk and former Rapid Bucureşti-man Cristian Săpunaru ready to go.

Speaking via the club web-site Jorge Fucile noted the importance of the match:

"Sunday’s match will be very important and can signify a huge step towards the title. The expectations are high and we’ve been working hard in order to get a good result in the match."

The Uruguayan international went on to add:

"Hulk and Lucho are two determinant players. They’ve played almost all matches throughout the season and they’ve been decisive in our pathway. Nevertheless, it’s proven that in this squad everyone is important and that’s why we’re in the top of the league and among the eight best teams in Europe."

"I’m part of the team and I get obviously satisfied when my colleagues play well. If we keep on winning, we’ll clinch another title and that’s the most important thing. It doesn’t matter who plays. Winning is what counts."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Újpest loses ground with 3-2 loss to MTK Budapest

With a opportunity to catapult over first-place Debreceni VSC, Újpest was upset by defending MTK Budapest of Hungary's Nemzeti Bajnokság I (Soproni Liga). The loss leaves Újpest in second place, ten points above Zalaegerszegi TE, with both spots earning berth in the first round of the Europa League qualifying.

Three minutes before the break Máté Pátkai gave Budapest as after playing a straight-forward one-two with Levente Horváth he drove the the ball past Újpest 'keeper Szabolcs Balajcza from fourteen metres. However only three minutes later Péter Kabát's corner from the right was nodded in by Zsolt Korcsmár to level the match. Two minutes after the re-start Újpest grabbed the lead as Péter Kabátt accepted a throw-in and sent a cross from the bye-line that a surging Tibor Tisza headed-in from the edge of the six-yard box. However with ten minutes left Budapest staged a two goal comeback first with Pátkai Máté squaring up the match as headed-in a long throw-in that had been flicked on by Bosnia and Herzegovina international Mario Božić from close range. Urbán Gábor found the winner for Budapest with two minutes remaining following a perfect linkup intiated by Zoltán Kiss' playmaking and a slike layoff by Crvena Zvezda alumni Ivan Dudić.

Rennais lose late to Bordeaux

Les Rouge et Noir hearts were broken as Yoann Gourcuff scored in the last strike of the match of the night to lead Bordeaux to a 3-2 victory.

With the vision of continuing their unbeaten run at home the match started perfectly for Rennais as seventeen seconds in Olivier Thomert led a quick fire assault with Moussa Sow's low cross being sent to the back of the net by Romain Danzé. Les Bretons narrowly missed doubling the margin shortly thereafter but at the twenty-seventh minute, the referee Monsieur Duhamel appropriately showed Marc Planus a straight red-card for his late challenge Moussa Sow. Not deterred by the disadvantage Bordeaux raced forward with an eye towards points and overtaking l'OM. At the half Guy Lacombe makes a tactical change, calling upon Asamoah Gyan for Olivier Thomert but les Girondins de Bordeaux quickly impose their will and with just under a half-hour remaining Yoan Gouffran volleyed the ball past Cheikh Ndiay from twenty mètres to the far left corner after Petter Hansson's poor clearance header comes straight to him. At the eightieth minute Carlos Bocanegra poor challenge from behind led to a free kick on the edge of the area resulting in Yoann Gourcuff curling effort to the left corner of the net to make it 2-1 for Laurent Blanc's side. After Rennais had a pénalty appeal turned down with ten minutes left as Monsieur Duhamel looks the other way of a Ulrich Ramé's contact with Asamoah Gyan justice was served as Moussa Sow seemingly maintained Rennais invincible home record turning in a loose ball with a minute left. Yet in a cruel twist of fate in the fourth minute of added time Ramé started a fast break with Yoann Gourcuff pounding the ball in from from the edge of the area, giving Bordeaux the 3-2 victory.

CFR Cluj to face Timişoara Cupa României finals

CFR Cluj booked a date in the finals of the Cupa României (Romanian Cup) with a 2-0 victory over Vaslui. The defending Liga 1 champions will now face FC Timişoara who overwhelmed Dinamo Bucureşti 4-1 in their half of the semi-finals yesterday.

Ten minutes into the match, Vaslui was caught forward with Diego Ruiz being played in alone and finishing the far left corner. Following the goal Vaslui had reason to complain as they were controversially denied at least two penalties by the referee and without a way through, Cluj added an insurance goal deep into added time. Racing down the right flank Bogdan Mara turned back from the bye-line and sent the ball back to Alvaro Pereira who pounded the ball in from the edge of the area to bring the match to a 2-0 conclusion.

Litex Lovech to defend Bulgarian cup following 1-0 defeat of Minyor Pernik

Defending Bulgarian Cup champions Litex Lovech advanced to the finals with a close 1-0 victory over Minyor Pernik.

For Dimitar Aleksiev's Pernik side, promotion to the top flight A PFG (А ПФГ) in Bulgaria has been difficult as they are only a point above relegation but they came out big against Litex with an impressive disciplined style. However four minutes before the hour mark Sandrinho played Krum Bibishkov through the left channel with the striker pounding the ball in from fourteen metres in the matches lone goal

Litex Lovech will face "Cinderella story" Pirin Blagoevgrad who following their defeat of CKSA Sofia, neatly dispatched Levski Sofia 1-0.

Pirin Blagoevgrad heads to Bulgarian Cup final with 1-0 defeat of Levski Sofia

After Levski Sofia's stunning 7-1 victory over Belasitsa Petrich that included great veteran Gjorgji Hristov's four goal performance, Emil Velev's side were shocked in the Bulgarian Cup (Купа на България) semi-finals losing 1-0 to Pirin Blagoevgrad.

Following a scoreless opening half the eagles added the winner eleven minutes after the restart as Bulgarian U-21 Spas Delev intercepted a under-weighted back-pass by Levski's Zhivko Milanov, surged down the left flank and sent a low cross to Daniel Peev who drove into the right corner of the net from twelve metres out.

Petar Mihtarski's side have had a stunning run though the Cup which included a defeat of CSKA Sofia and will now face defending champions Litex Lovech in the final. A victory in the Cup would come with the added bonus of earning a berth in the Europa League.

Romania hands the reigns to Răzvan Lucescu

Following the letting go of Victor Piţurcă, the Federaţia Română de Fotbal (Romanian Football Federation) has decided to hand the reigns of the national team to Răzvan Lucescu. With a goal of reviving the "tricolori" he has experienced tremendous success as a manager of FC Braşov and Rapid Bucureşti after his playing days with FC Sportul Studenţesc and Rapid concluded. A skilled tactician, Răzvan has his eye on the pulse of development of the game and will provide Romania the long-term leadership it requires as it looks ahead to Euro 2012. His appointment has been lauded already by his peers as a master-stroke for Romania and bodes well for the future.

For Romania fans his appointment is a bit of a double-take as his father Mircea Lucescu, presently Shakhtar Donetsk manager, led Romania in the early 1980's including their 1984 World Cup appearance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FC Timişoara advances in the Cupa României with win over Dinamo Bucureşti

Gabi Balint's FC Timişoara defeated Dinamo Bucureşti 4-1 in the semi-finals of the Cupa României (Romanian Cup).

Lukáš Magera gave Timişoara the 1-0 lead five minutes for the half hour mark as he pounced on Gigel Bucur's effort that pounded off the post and sent the ball in immediately. Timişoara doubled its lead on the hour as Iasmin Latovlevici took advantage of the poor clearance from Dinamo and after moving to the left side of the area, sent a low cross for Abiodun Agunbiade who promptly drove the ball to the left corner of the net from twelve metres. The Roş-albii brought the match within one as Adrian Cristea surged into the six-yard box box to head-in Osvaldo Miranda long cross from the left with eighteen minutes remaining. However only eight minutes later Timişoara restored its two goal margin as Winston Parks received a long diagonal cross on the edge of the Dinamo area before working down the bye-line and centering the ball for Gigel Bucur who volleyed the ball in from twelve metres. With four minutes remaining in the match Florin Maxim free-kick into the box was nodded in by Daré Nibombé to bring the match to its final 4-1 score.

Vladimir Maminov takes over Lokomotiv Moskva

After a horrendous start to the season in which they have only a single victory in the first six matches Lokomotiv Moskva as relinquished Rashid Rakhimov of his duties and appointed Vladimir Maminov as the caretaker manager.

After sixteen seasons patrolling the midfield of Lokomotiv, few understand the inner-workings of the clubs and its rich tradition as well as he. In choosing Mr. Maminov, Lokomotiv management have wisely decided to go forward with someone who can have an immediate impact in solidifying the club. In speaking to the press the new manager, use to the leadership duties of the club, urged patience as they formulate their plans for the upcoming derby against Spartak.

It is widely speculated that the club will try to lure Yuri Semin back to the fold from Dynamo Kiev or Valery Gazzaev who retired from CSKA Moskva last season.

Monday, April 27, 2009

shadow of relegation grows for Newcastle

Facing a "must win" situation, Newcastle played Portsmouth to a disappointing nil draw at St James’ Park on Monday evening.

Whilst the result is a painful one to consider, let no-one say Alan Shearer didn't go out with both guns blazing. Never to back down number 9 chose the attacking trident of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Mark Viduka with the single purpose of scoring. Though the Magpies may have been shy of the needed supporting talent, they made up for a great deal with tactical mindset and should have come out with the three points. Unfortunately "should" means very little and the biggest surprise of the day came from Michael Owen and Oba Martins missing quality chances that I dare say, if only number 9 still had his boots it would have been so very, very different. Sadly the legend can grace the grounds and Gazza can't resist returning but the final touch just isn't there with the present day crew and when the chips are down, they didn't respond. I will leave it at that because I deplore those who can't close and this was the worst example of let opportunities fly by.

Newcastle had its chances and in many ways, more than its fair share as Mike Riley turned a blind-eye to what many considered an obvious penalty call but still couldn't turn the screw. How this match will be remembered is likely to be determined in the final four weeks of the campaign. Should Newcastle tumble to the lower division, many will recall how Michael Owen forgot his shooting boots three minutes past the hour when played in by Mark Viduka or how Oba Martin sent a bar well into the stands from point-blank range, in what could have been a turning point in the great escape. Sadly as the match waned on the hearty Newcastle supporters who sang with pride earlier were forced to watch a toothless assault, venom so drained that Gazza could not watch.

Now the Magpies must rally and find strength in the past and summon a siege mentality lest that succumb the drop that as Leeds and Charleton can state, can be a terrifying slide. Sunday they venture to Anfield and while maybe just a foolish hazy dream, the magic of number 9 will see Newcastle through.

Schwarzgelben incredible season

With five matches remaining BVB is heading to their best season since winning the championship in 2002. Presently standing with forty-nine points, the Dortmunder's will need to make up five points for a Europa League spot but with lower table sides Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Bielefeld and Monchengladbach still to play the chance is there.

Jürgen Klopp is not predicting anything other than a continuation of hard working "honest" Football. Patrick Owomoyela said of the schwarzgelben effort:

"It´s so much fun and we enjoy it. And we don´t have to pinch ourselves to make sure it´s real, because we know how hard we worked for these wins."

The next step in BVB's advances is Frankfurt on Saturday which naturally will be a smoldering cauldron. With a disappointing season blanketed by endless injuries Frankfurt has fought just to stay above relegation. Problems aside they can come up with big performances and their "twelfth-man" will not be quieted. Roughly 10,000 Dortmunders are making the short drive north in support and will be needed in what is likely to be the weekends most vocal match.

Newcastle's call to arms

With five weeks left in the campaign it's "now or never" for Newcastle if they are to escape relegation. Floundering in the second from the bottom spot they welcome Portsmouth to St James' Park Monday evening in dire need for points. Following the weekends action in-which West Brom took a step towards their great escape efforts by defeating Sunderland, a victory by the Magpies would put them within a point of Hull City.

While the media is ripe with clatter of "having the quality" to avoid the drop and other fine sound bites, the club will need to play with a blood-thirsty attitude and not concern itself with commentaries best served for loyal fans. Harsh, yes but many sides feel they have what it "takes" to avoid relegation but equally find out in final days of the season they just didn't put their claret on the line.

For Newcastle the test will require a more aggressive approach then in the past. While the club has went forward with logical tactic's as you enter the final month with a need to make up considerable points, caution needs to be thrown aside as you entire attacking mode. The route to safety will most likely come through success within the confines of St James' Park as they have three winnable matches, Portsmouth on Monday with both Middlesbrough and Fulham. Certainly not "easy" tests given 'Boro is equally fighting for safety and Fulham is bearing down on European football but it is significantly more appetizing than their visits to Anfield and Villa Park.

All hands are on-deck for Alan Shearer, with the only possible exceptions behind Steven Taylor and Joey Barton. Barring a major injury it is time to grit the teeth and be available if the call is made and equally the Toon Army must rise up in voracious support.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ukrainian Premier League week 25

Week 25 of the Ukrainian Premier League concluded with Dynamo Kyiv racing towards the championship holding a twelve-point lead over second place Shakhtar Donetsk. With both clubs having an inside track on the Champions League, the race for spots three through five and a much-coveted spot in the Europa League is tighter than ever.

At the top of the table Dynamo Kyiv defeated Kharkiv 1-0 with Miloš Ninković scoring the matches lone goal ten minutes in. Mircea Lucescu's Shakhtar Donetsk overtook Chornomorets Odessa 1-0 with Willian's strike two minutes after the break. Metalist Kharkiv lost points in its race towards a Champions League spot, playing Metalurh Zaporizhya to a 1-1 draw. Milan Obradović gave Metalist the lead four minutes past the hour but with Kozaky leveling the match with five minutes remaining Olexiy Hodin finding the mark. Metalurh Donetsk defeated Illichivets 1-0 on Ciprian Ion Tănasă goal just before the break. Vorskla Poltava maintained its pace for the final Europa League spot with a 2-1 victory over Karpaty. After former Dinamo Zagreb man Denis Glavina gave Vorskla the lead from the spot nine minutes before the break,
Ihor Khudobyak brought the match level at the fifty-fourth minute. However a minute after the hour Vorskla grabbed the lead via a Vasyl Kobin own-goal. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk kept its hopes alive for a Europa League berth with a come from behind 2-1 victory over Arsenal Kyiv. Arsenal took the lead five minutes in with Bohdan Shershun's before Oleksiy Byelik leveling before the break. Volodymyr Homenyuk added the winner on the hour to give Dnipro the victory. Elsewhere Tavriya Simferopol defeated Zorya Luhansk 2-1 while Lviv squeezed out a 1-0 victory over Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih.

Ukrainian Premier League P W D L GS GA Pts
Dynamo Kyiv 25 21 1 3 61 16 64
Shakhtar Donetsk 25 15 7 3 38 15 52
Metalist Kharkiv 25 14 7 4 38 22 49
Metalurh Donetsk 25 13 4 8 31 22 43
Vorskla Poltava 25 11 7 7 26 22 40
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 25 10 8 7 24 20 38
Metalurh Zaporizhya 25 10 8 7 25 25 38
Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih 25 8 8 9 21 29 32
Tavriya Simferopol 25 8 6 11 33 36 30
Karpaty 25 7 9 9 30 29 30
Zorya Luhansk 25 7 7 11 26 37 28
Arsenal Kyiv
25 6 7 12 20 30 25
Chornomorets Odessa 25 9 2 14 26 33 23
Lviv 25 4 7 14 15 31 19
Illichivets 25 4 5 16 22 47 17
Kharkiv 25 2 9 14 14 36 15

Pantelis Kapetanos gives Steaua Bucureşti 1-0 victory over CS Otopeni

Steaua Bucureşti grabbed a last gasp 1-0 victory over CS Otopeni with Pantelis Kapetanos finding the mark a minute into added time. With the victory Steaua are level with Rapid and only a point behind Universitatea Craiova for the final Europa League spot.

With the match seemingly destined for a scoreless draw former AEK Athens-man Pantelis Kapetanos rescued the three points as accepted George Ogăraru's long cross at the top of the box and after chesting the ball down, turned and fired into the bottom right corner.

Steaua return to play next Saturday against Oţelul Galaţi whilst CS Otopeni faces
Gloria Buzău.

Hajduk Split defeat Zadar 3-0

Hajduk Split continued its chase of Dinamo Zagreb with a 3-0 victory over NK Zadar. With the victory Hajduk is only a single point behind first-place Dinamo in the chase for the Prva HNL crown and a berth in the Champions League.

Senijad Ibričić gave the traveling Torcida reason to celebrate six minutes in as he accepted Jurica Buljat's provision from a free-kick on the left before driving the ball in from the edge of the area. The match continued without further incident will three minutes before the hour when Zadar's Marin Ljubičić was shown a straight read for a rash challenge on Srđan Andrić. With the man advantage Hajduk doubled it's margin six minutes later with Andrić exacting revenge as he scooped up a loose ball on the edge of the area and drove it into the bottom left corner of the netting. With eleven minutes remaining Croatia U21 Dario Jertec sent a high cross to Jurica Buljat on the left, who then relayed to Mario Tičinović in the box with the seventeen year-old protégé turning effortlessly and firing into the net to bring the match to a 3-0 final.

Hajduk return to action next Sunday as they welcome Varteks Varaždin to Split.

Porto drives to championship

Porto continued their assault on their fourth successive Liga championship as they defeated Vitória de Setúbal 2-0 at Estádio do Dragão on the strength of Lisandro López' two goals. With the victory Jesualdo Ferreira's side now heads into the final month of the campaign with a confident four point margin over Sporting.

Os Dragões were without the services of Hulk and former Rapid Bucureşti-man Cristian Săpunaru for the match. The visitors, despite flirting with relegation, clamped down the match perfectly in the opening half and did not allow a noteworthy assault. In-fact the best scoring chance of the half was of Os Sadinos, via non other than Bruno Gama whose clever effort six minutes before the half forced the best out of Helton to deny. After the break tensions were running high as Porto was finding the going rough. Finally a minute past the hour Porto had the needed goal as Fernando played the ball to Ernesto Farías on the left side of the box and after a quick advance sent the ball to Lisandro López surging into the area. Following a difficult challenge the Argentine international sent the ball in from eleven metres. Only six minutes later the Azuis e brancos clad supporters rose to their feet as Mariano González drove down the right flank and as he turned near the bye-line, sent a perfect low cross to Lisandro to side foot in for his second of the night. The match concluded without further mark as Porto earned the 2-0 victory.

FK Partizan captures Superliga title with 4-1 victory over OFK Beograd

With complete dominance FK Partizan secured its successful defense of the Super Liga Srbije (Serbian Superliga) with a 4-1 victory over OFK Beograd. Slaviša Jokanović's side hold an eighteen point advantage over Vojvodina.

The Crno-beli took the lead with ten minutes remaining in the half as seventeen year-old virtuoso Adem Ljajić hit the mark. Ljajić's Serbia U-21 international teammate Aleksandar Ignjovski brought the match level for OFK Beograd eight minutes after the restart. With twenty minutes remaining in the match Jokanović summoned Washington in for Ljajić. The result was immediate as the Brazilian was on the pitch for only a minute before restoring Partizan's lead and added at the eightieth minute. Lamine Diarra made it 4-1 as the celebrations began.

Slaviša Jokanović's Partizan gunning to repeat their double with a win in the Serbian Cup but if so it looks to be through a showdown against rivals Crvena Zvezda. Both sides will need to advance in the semi-finals against Banat Zrenjanin whilst Crvena Zvezda meet FK Sevojno with the final on 20 May.

Gaz Metan Mediaş continues great escape with 2-1 win over Gloria Buzău

Gaz Metan Mediaş continued its great escape effort as they defeated Gloria Buzău. It was Mediaş' second successive win and lifts them within a point of Politehnica Iaşi out of the relegation zone.

Eric (de Oliveira Pereira) gave Mediaş the lead three minutes past the half-hour striking a free-kick from eighteen metres in before Ioan Mera squared the match up five minutes later as he headed in a corner. However with just under a half-hour remaining Eric (de Oliveira Pereira) grabbed his second of the day and gave Gaz Metan Mediaş the important 2-1 win as he struck a breathtaking curling free-kick from twenty-five metres to the opposite left corner.

Gaz Metan Mediaş returns to play next Saturday against Rapid Bucureşti whilst Gloria Buzău faces CS Otopeni.

Universitatea Craiova defeats Argeş Piteşti 1-0

Universitatea Craiova continued its pursuit of European football with a 1-0 victory over Argeş Piteşti. With the victory Nicolò Napoli's side squeezes above Steaua Bucureşti in the final Europa league spot.

After a tightly played match Jérémie N'Jock scored the winner with fourteen minutes remaining as from seven metres he headed-in Romanian international Dorel Stoica's free-kick from the left. Although having a quality chance to add to their margin late, the match concluded without further incident.

Universitatea Craiova returns to play next Sunday against Pandurii Târgu Jiu whilst the embattled Argeş Piteşti side face Vaslui.

Die Lausitzer end Wolfsburg run

Wolfsburg's remarkable unbeaten run during the Rückrunde came to shocking conclusion losing 2-0 to relegation threatened Energie Cottbus. For the Lausitz side, it was the performance of the year that could save them relegation but equally it could cost Wolfsburg the Bundesliga championship. The loss leaves Wolfsburg holding a two point margin over Hertha BSC but without question will be remembered as a lost opportunity.

Committed to unbreakable defending, Bojan Prašnikar's forces nullified Wolfsburg's advances, limiting them to a few unfilled chance before the break. After Edin Džeko was denied from point blank range by Energie 'keeper Gerhard Tremmel, the hosts took the lead with eighteen minutes remaining. Off a short corner play Partizan product Ivica Iliev sent a high lob cross to the far post that Bulgarian international Dimitar Rangelov nodded-in with Wolfsburg a casual defenders a casual observer to the mark. With four minutes remaining a long ball found Dimitar Rangelov to the left and after holding off Wolfsburg's challenges he dispatched the ball to Dennis Sørensen on the right. The Danish international played-in Ervin Skela who then drove the ball in from a tight angle ball to make it 2-0.

Complacency shows as Genoa loses

Sometimes the harshest medicine is the most beneficial. If that is the case for Genoa, over the last two weeks they have become complacent during a time when they should be killing off the competition and earning a spot in European football.

For the second successive week shows as Rossoblu were held scoreless as they lost 2-0 to a committed Bologna side fighting for their Serie A survival. Match analysis is more of a carbon copy of the recent Lazio encounter whereby they not only have succumbed to the highly predictable plan of attack but have lacked the intestinal fortitude to press on. Following a early Genoa opportunity that proved fruitless, Bologna took the lead at the quarter-mark on the most peculiar of situations. In an attacking advance by Bologna, Genoa 'keeper Rubinho meandered far out of his goal and as an effort was turned towards the goal Salvatore Bocchetti casually turned the ball back instead of launching a long clearance. His touch was far too heavy and as Nicola Mingazzini charged in for the loose ball, contact was made with a penalty being adjudged. It was a deplorable comedy of errors on many aspects that isn't befitting of a side trying to earn a berth in the Champions League and Marco Di Vaio reminded his former teammates of his ability by slamming the ball to the back of net. Only ten minutes later Bologna turned the screw a morsel tighter as another Genoa alumni, Adaílton sent a free-kick into the box that Claudio Terzi turned in from close range. Opportunities to bring the match to within one came for Genoa but finishing was a painful mess and for the most part the heart and soul of Bologna, refusing to go softly into Serie B drove them forward for the 2-0 victory.

CSKA Moskva fall to Rostov 2-1

Luzhniki Stadium was the setting for one of Sunday's most stunning upsets as CSKA Moskva fell 2-1 to FC Rostov. The loss is particularly disheartening for the Army-Men because they missed a perfect opportunity to climb to the top of the table following Spartak's upset of defending champion Rubin Kazan.

With a completely unchanged side that blew apart Khimki 3-0 the week before Zico went forward once again with the attacking pulse of Yuri Zhirkov, Miloš Krasić, Alan Dzagoev, former Slavia Praha striker Tomáš Necid along with seventeen year-old Georgi Shchennikov in the back-line. Evgeni Aldonin gave the Army-Men the 1-0 lead with eighteen minutes left as he took a simple thrown-in in the Rostov area and as the surged towards 'keeper Veniamin Mandrykin, he sent a low cross towards Alan Dzagoev but was deflected in by Mikhail Rozhkov. However with three minutes left in the half, Rostov found the equalizer via a fortunate bounce. After Dmitri Akimov worked down from the left flank and provided Igor Lebedenko the ball just outside the area the striker turned and fired with the ball taking a significant bounce off either Hong Yong-Jo or Georgi Shchennikov and past Igor Akinfeev. Two minutes after the break former Crvena Zvezda-man Dušan Anđelković sent a cross in from the left that Dmitri Akimov headed off the bar with the rebound eventually being sent in by Hong Yong-Jo for the 2-1 lead. Rostov had a chance to pull away as after Dmitri Akimov was brought down in the area, Mikhail Osinov stepped up the spot but Igor Akinfeev couldn't be fooled and kept CSKA within one. However the leveler could not be found as the Army-Men lost 2-1.

Borussia plays Bielefeld to draw

Borussia's fight to avoid relegation suffered another set-back as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Arminia Bielefeld. In conjunction with Energie Cottbus and Karlsruhe upset victories over the weekend, Hans Meyer's side drops to seventeenth in the table and faces a difficult run of matches with Bayern and Schalke over the next two weeks.

Knowing full well that a win by either side would catapult them to safety defending took precedence. DSC weren't about to let Borussia advance without challenge with Marko Marin feeling the brunt of the punishment. At the twelfth minute Alexander Baumjohann surged down the left flank, withstood a heavy challenge before sending the ball to Karim Matmour who finished from the edge of the area. Borussia were clearly the aggressor with the schwarz-weiß-blauen patiently waiting for the opening. That opening came just past the half-hour as DSC took advantage of Borussia defending problems on the flank with Thorben Marx waltzing past Michael Bradley without challenge and just as he approached the area Paul Stalteri slid in but assisted in deflecting the ball towards Robert Tesche who then squeezed the ball past Logan Bailly. A charging Tomáš Galásek, playing with the work-rate of someone half his age came close to clearing the ball before it crossed but was just a stride behind as Bielefeld had the goal it needed. Borussia controlled the majority of attacking efforts could not break through with Bielefeld clearly playing for the draw. Searching for the needed goal Hans Meyer called for Oliver Neuville, sixty-nine minutes late and despite his efforts the match ended as a draw.

Eintracht lose 2-0 to Stuttgart

Using the same starting eleven that had led Eintracht to last weeks 4-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach, Friedhelm Funkel went forward with confidence against Stuttgart. With full knowledge that the VfB has been one of the hottest clubs in the Bundesliga since Markus Babbel took over at the end of November the first course of action was to limit their attack.

After a good opening thirty minutes in which Stuttgart was unable to breakdown Eintracht, the hosts broke through on their first major effort as Cacau edged Ludovic Magnin's cross to the back of the net. Eintracht was unable to find the needed leveler and a few minutes into the new half they were victimized for their first major defending error as Mario Gómez received Martin Lanig’s free-kick in the box before sending the ball in. Despite continued efforts Eintracht could not break through and lost 2-0.

Of the positives, Zlatan Bajramović was showing good movement and helping to create spaces with Alexander Meier after coming in at the break. With Borussia Dortmund coming to Waldstadion next Saturday, the overall health and play of the Bosnian looks like he is ready for a full ninety minutes.

Geißböcke lose to Hannover

Die Geißböcke difficult run in the Rückrunde continued losing 2-1 to Hannover. The loss, their fourth in a row, leaves Köln eleventh in the table with five weeks remaining. While on the surface relegation concerns might seem out of the question with remaining matches against in-form Bremen, Hertha and HSV Christoph Daum's side will need to fight out some tough points to avoid a late season catastrophe.

Köln started the match very positively and without Robert Enke leading Hannover the course of the day could have been much different. Tactical plans took a significant turn nineteen minutes in as against the general flow of play Christian Schulz sent a long diagonal cross to a spot with Leon Andreasen showing incredible touch to volley softly in. If not enough to shelve Christoph Daum's plans, twelve minutes later Arnold Bruggink sent Andreasen in alone on Faryd Mondragón and in quickly made it 2-0. Right after the break Nemanja Vučićević created the needed goal as his crossed as nodded in by Milivoje Novakovič. The goal ignited Köln, primarily through the work of Vučićević but they could not find the equalizer and lost 2-1.

Koln welcomes Bremen to RheinEnergieStadion next Sunday in need to points. Per the Hannover performance Nemanja Vučićević who went through some rough spots this year should return to the starting eleven.

Feyenoord defeats ADO Den Haag 3-2

Like the fireworks that ushered in the match in, the Leon Vlemmings-era in Rotterdam is ending with a flourish as Feyenoord defeated ADO Den Haag 3-2 today.

Best called a "quiet" match before the break, the final forty-five minutes lit-up with five goals with Roy Makaay adding the winner with eight minutes left on the clock. After the opening half, in-which the hosts were generally the better of the two, Den Haag broke the deadlock two minutes past the hour as Timothy Derijck haunted his former teammates by nodding in a corner. The Rotterdammers responded immediately and drew the match level two minutes later starting a clever one-two between Diego Biseswar and Roy Makaay, only to the have the ball sent to Jon Dahl Tomasson for the final touch. The match opened up and scoring chances flowed openly and with fourteen minutes left on the clock Biseswar crossed from the bye-line to the Dane Tomasson to close-out from close range. Not deterred, with their own fight to avoid relegation Den Haag squared the match up via Richard Knopper's free-kick from the edge of the area. However in the will of forces, Feyenoord would not be denied the three points as a minute later Tim de Cler sent a ball into the box that Roy Makaay sent in for a story-book ending in his five-hundredth league match.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

CFR Cluj held to draw by Oţelul Galaţi

CFR Cluj dropped important points in their race to successfully defending their championship as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Oţelul Galaţi. The result, Cluj's second successive draw, drops them seven points off the top spot with seven weeks remaining in the campaign.

With four minutes left in the opening half Gabriel Mureşan was shown a straight red forcing Cluj to play a man down for the balance of the match. On the resulting free-kick former Litex Lovech-man Zhivko Zhelev gave Galaţi the lead as he struck a free-kick from just outside the area and took a helping deflection off the wall and into the net. Three minutes past the hour in a fast counter-attack led by Sebastián Dubarbier, Yssouf Koné received the ball on his left and sent the ball in from twelve metres.

The defending champions Cluj return to play as they welcome Dinamo Bucureşti on Sunday whilst Oţelul Galaţi faces Steaua Bucureşti

De Friezen draw to Twente

De Friezen came within minutes of an important win over Twente but with a last minute strike the match ended with a 1-1 score. The draw had massive implications on Trond Sollied's side as they fell out of the Europa League spot to fifth but equally have a another twist should the result cause Twente to fall out of a Champions League berth.

As a preview to next months KNVB final the match had the all the tone of a title bout with scoring opportunities limited with resolute defending. After a scoreless half Heerenveen looked like it found the winner goal as former Dinamo Zagreb-man Danijel Pranjić's corner was sent in by Paulo Henrique. However thoughts of three-points disappeared as with time winding down, Twente's Theo Janssen sent in a free-kick from twenty-five metres. What makes the result most intriguing is that the losing finalist for the domestic cup competition (the KNVB Beker in this situation) will qualify for the Europa League if the winners qualify for the Champions League but with Twente not gaining full points they have opened up a chance for Ajax.

Heading into the final two weeks Heerenveen will need help if they are to overtake PSV but first they must defeat ADO Den Haag on Sunday

Rayados win in Cancún

Following last weeks 1-0 victory of San Luis, Monterrey went forward against troubled Atlante knowing that a positive result would put them on the cusp of the Liguilla. While it may not have been an overwhelming performance, the Rayados accomplished their goals with a straight-forward 1-0 triumph. The result pushes Monterrey to third in the overall table and only four points shy of their goal for the Clausura with two matches to play.

It's difficult to call this match "exciting" or even "energetic" because in-truth chances were few and it rarely seemed like either side was desperate for the three points. The Cancún side suffering through a painful campaign supplied few attacking advances and offered their supporters little hope. After a dreary opening forty-five minutes Monterrey took greater initiative and after few efforts fell short including a shocking denial of a penalty after Chupete was brought down in the area, they found the needed goal five minutes past the hour. Collecting the ball at the top of the box Humberto Suazo drove the ball towards the goal but it took a high deflection to the left only to be volleyed in by Abraham Darío Carreño from ten metres. After a late modest chance by the match concluded with Monterrey winning 1-0.

Theo Janssen's last gasp goal saves Twente

De Tukkers maintained their second-place position by the narrowest of margins as they played Heerenveen to a 1-1 draw, with thanks to Theo Janssen's last gasp goal.

In a prelude to next months KNVB Beker final the match took on a interesting tone as both sides seemed not to want show too much of their tactical plan for the big day. Excluding a few early chances the majority of the opening half was a box to box encounter and defending was letter perfect. However with thirteen minutes left Heerenveen's play-maker extraordinaire Danijel Pranjić corner was turned in by Paulo Henrique after 'keeper Sander Boschker was lost coming out to defend. However with a minute left Blaise Kufo was fouled during a challenge and a free-kick awarded. Theo Janssen lined his effort up and from twenty-five metres drove the ball to the far left corner to square the match at one.

PSV climbs to Europa League spot

PSV added their fourth successive victory, upending Heracles Almelo 2-0. With the result the defending champions climb to fourth in the table, three points above Heerenveen in the final Europa League spot.

The victory was far from an easy walk in the park for the Dwight Lodeweges-led PSV as the host side, fighting to avoid relegation initiated the early assaults. An early miscue by Andreas Isaksson off a corner gifted Bas Dost a point blank chance but his attempt drifted off-course. Midway of the half PSV found its opening goal coming off a lightning fast counter. As Jason Culina provided Balázs Dzsudzsák a searching long ball down the left flank the Hungarian international pulled Heracles defender Birger Maertens over only to send the ball to Ola Toivonen on the right. Coming in free on great veteran 'keeper Martin Pieckenhagen, his attempt was denied but the rebound came straight back to the young striker who then passed the ball back to Balázs Dzsudzsák in front of the open goal for a 1-0 lead. After coming close to squaring up the match PSV took advantage of a poor clearance by Heracles to launch a quick counter-strike resulting in Danny Koevermans turning in a rebound of Balázs Dzsudzsák drive to bring the match to a 2-0 conclusion.

PSV returns to action next Sunday against N.E.C. in their final home match of the year.

Königsblauen stomp all over Bayern

Die Königsblauen coaching trio of Mike Büskens, Youri Mulder and Oliver Reck did it again as they extended their winning streak to four as they handed Bayern a 1-0 loss München.

With a sell-out crowd in attendance, many who joined-in a request to finally get rid of Jürgen Klinsmann, Schalke displayed a tough demeanor as they fought their way against the defending champions. Schalke took the lead twenty-one minutes in as Halil Altintop, slipped under Kevin Kurányi to rid his mark and head-in Christian Pander corner. For much of the remaining match, excluding Martín Demichelis opportunity near the break that he found a way to miss, chances were not of the highest probability. As the match progressed with both sides fighting for important point tempers ran hot resulting in both Jermaine Jones and Franck Ribéry sent off in the final twenty minutes with their second yellow. Be that as it may, Schalke enjoyed the role of "the spoiler" and sent Bayern to their demise with a 1-0 defeat.

Schwaben win again

VfB won their fifth successive match, continuing their stunning run of play in the Rückrunde, defeating Frankfurt 2-0 at the Neckarstadion on Saturday afternoon. The victory squares VfB with Bayern on points and leaves the 9 May match against Wolfsburg as a possible decider of the championship.

For the visiting Frankfurt side, the year that started with so much promise has been limping to a conclusion. That aside they are a side with quality personnel, that if fully-fit can cause a multitude of problems. Inspired to limit VfB going forward, Frankfurt were resolute in defending and until Martin Lanig's effort at the half hour there were no significant attacking threats. However with twelve minutes remaining in the half Ludovic Magnin cross was flicked on by Cacau, who had slipped under Marco Russ, to the near post giving VfB the 1-0 lead. Die Schwaben doubled the margin three minutes into the new half as Lanig's free-kick from the left landed a Mario Gómez feet with striker sending it in to make it 2-0. Any chance of Frankfurt coming back ended with that goal and the match waned on without further scoring keeping alive Jens Lehmann string of three successive matches without a goal against.

Karlsruhe defeats Leverkusen 1-0

Fighting relegation down to the last second Karlsruhe pulled off a stunning upset as they defeated Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1-0 in Düsseldorf. The result pulls KSC within only a few points of safety while continuing Werkself's complete collapse since the start of the Rückrunde which as has them only win once.

Clearly fatigued from the mid-week extra-time DFB Pokal win, Bayer 04 controlled the run of play but were unable to paint the final stroke. With only Michal Kadlec out of the lineup it was simply the indefensible spirit that shone through in Düsseldorf as Edmund Becker fought for a full ninety-minutes. While facing relegation KSC wouldn't play "safe" and proceeded to play highly attacking football from the start. After early opportunities from Joshua Kennedy came up empty-handed it was Leverkusen who had the majority of chances. Searching for solutions Bruno Labbadia substituted Gonzalo Castro and Angelos Charisteas for Arturo Vidal and Patrick Helmes but that failed to do the trick and with eighteen minutes left, the walls caved in as René Adler allowed Sebastian Langkamp's sliding clearance from 40 metres to get behind him and into the net. Following the shock goal Bayer 04 came close for the leveler but it couldn't be found and they lost 1-0.

Hannover 96 defeats Köln 2-1

96 provided itself important space away from relegation with a 2-1 defeat over Köln at the Niedersachsenstadion. The loss drives Dieter Hecking level with Köln at twelfth and a full nine points above 'Gladbach in the relegation playoff spot.

Once again Dieter Hecking was without the services of Jacek Krzynówek, Michael Tarnat, Frank Fahrenhorst, Vinícius, Steven Cherundolo, Valérien Ismaël and Chavdar Yankov for the injury saddled side. After a few close chances in both ends went for naught, Leon Andreasen opened the scoring at the nineteenth minute, Leon Andreasen scored the first of his two goals as he volleyed in Christian Schulz incredible long diagonal cross in from eleven metres. At the thirty-second minute Andreasen had his second as he got behind Petit to accept Arnold Bruggink's through ball and went in to score past Faryd Mondragón. At the half, Köln summoned Nemanja Vučićević and with two minutes he was creator of the next goal as his cross from the left corner was headed in by Milivoje Novakovič from in-close. Vučićević continued to threaten as his diving header from the right side of the box trickled wide and a further chance from twenty-five metres that just missed. However with Joachim Löw in attendance, Robert Enke denied each Köln and sealed the 2-1 victory.

Green Whites overcome Bochum

Mimicking their entire season, the Green Whites came back late with three unanswered goals to defeat Bochum 3-2 at Weserstadion. While Werder's Europa League hopes rest in its ongoing efforts in the UEFA Cup and the DFB Pokal, the late push has club targeting a top eight finish.

The day didn't start out well as Werder definitely didn't approach Bochum with the caution they deserved. Just down the A1, Werder's southern neighbours can pose considerable problems and have been one of the best performing sides since the start of the Rückrunde. After Markus Rosenberg came close to opening the scoring, Bochum took the lead at the sixteenth minute as Christoph Dabrowski got in-between a pass from Torsten Frings with the loose ball coming to Marc Pfertzel. Quickly sending the ball through to Stanislav Šesták on his right, the Slovakian international got behind Naldo and drove the ball through Tim Weise's legs and in. If you were to doubt the quality of Bochum or that matter Šesták, that changed a minute before the break as he scored his second of the day. Following a Werder corner that Dabrowski cleared, Šesták received the ball in his own end, navigated through stationary Green-White defenders before sending the ball in. The 39,000 in attendance let Werder know how they felt their performance ranked as they went off a the break and as the new half begin the momentum shifted quickly. Nine minutes in, Werder brought the match within one in a calm practice-grounds goal. Initiated with Diego linking up Mesut Özil who then dealt the ball to Markus Rosenberg on the far right, the striker crossed low to Hugo Almeida who redirected the ball in from a few metres. The Bochumer side were under pressure and with twenty minutes left Naldo leveled the match as he was returned the ball from Özil and after moving to his right struck the ball to the far right corner from just outside the area. Traffic was completely one way now and with nine minutes left Diego struck the winner from seven metres as he collected a high ball into the box, with virtually no challenge from Bochum and turned to volley into the net. Up 3-2 now, Werder had a chance to add to the lead but it wasn't to be and the match ended without additional scoring.

Schwarzgelben defeat Hamburg 2-0

Die Schwarzgelben continued their path to one of their best finishes in a decade as they sent Hamburg home with a 2-0 defeat. The Dortmunder's victory is fifth successive triumph, of which they have continued their defending mastery as they have only allowed two blemishes during the period.

A sold-out Westfalenstadion met HSV and from the start, the high flying club knew 80,000 voices would be heard through the day. Without injury concern Jürgen Klopp kept to the lineup and tactical styling that like a fine engine is running in perfect syncopation. Following Jürgen Klopp's decree to ""stay hungry", BVB dug their heels in and gave no ground uncontested. Amongst the backdrop of sea of black and yellow flags Hamburg's much talked of attack was no match and were unable to find their way into the final third. Midway of the half the Serb, Neven Subotić, woke HSV up with a drive from thirty-five metres that rattled the bar only to be matched seven minutes later by Nelson Valdez that did the same. If HSV felt fortunate to escape the two goals, their day turned shortly as Dortmunder's sang out in praise from the stands, BVB answered as Sebastian Kehl found the needed goal.

Sahin played in Kehl just two minutes after Valdez´ effort and the skipper was a picture of calm as he brought the ball down in the box to slide the ball through Rost´s legs to put the home side one up. It was Kehl´s third goal of the season and it prompted HSV into a spirited if clueless reaction. From roughly forty-metres Nuri Şahin sent a perfect lob to the captain on the left who followed the ball through Frank Rost's legs from thirteen metres. The goal was in-fact set up through a consistant tactical plan of stressing width via Jakub Błaszczykowski and in essence opening up channel attacks. With the lead, there was little doubt that Jürgen Klopp would turn the screw and force HSV to take greater chances if they were to find the equalizer. Tactically it was a master-stroke as die schwarzgelben were strolling to the victory with less than a quarter of hour left. The tactical plan fell off-course with ten minutes remaining when Roman Weidenfeller's clearance was insufficient and the Dortmunder's came close to giving up the three points via Ivica Olić effort. However that effort fell shy and as time wound down Alexander Frei converted from the spot to make it 2-0 after Michael Gravgaard was adjudged a penalty for bringing Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Man City keeps Europa League hopes alive

Man City extended their Europa League hopes with a 2-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. The victory marked the Citizens first away from home since the hazy days of August and leaves them only three points behind Fulham in seventh place.

Without the services of Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips, Mark Hughes' side took the lead with ten minutes remaining in the half as Elano's long ball through the left channel to Robinho, was topped off with the Brazilian driving the ball past Tim Howard from a tight angle. The Samba was alive and well as smiles returned on the day and after Shay Given robbed Marouane Fellaini from point-blank range, Man City doubled the margin nine minutes into the new half. In an uncharacteristic defensive lapse by Everton, Felipe Caicedo provided the ball to Robinho on the left with the virtual right side open for Stephen Ireland to wander free and volley in the Brazilian's deft chip. Unfortunately for David Moyes side Phil Jagielka suffered a season ending knee injury and with an extended injury time Everton's superb young midfielder Dan Gosling accepted Steven Pienaar's provision and drove the ball to the right corner from the centre of the box.

Man City returns to action next Saturday as they welcome Blackburn Rovers to Eastlands.

Leeds marches on with 1-0 victory over Hartlepool

Leeds marches on the the playoffs with Saturday's 1-0 victory over Hartlepool United. While the Whites had already secured a playoff berth, manager Simon Grayson was focused upon gaining the maximal points in their two remaining matches.

The style of victory was precisely what Leeds needed as they displayed playoff-sound tactics and rarely allowed the hosts an opportunity to score. Without the services of Fabian Delph and Robert Snodgrass for the day Simon Grayson's side showed notable attack vision the loss of the important cogs. After threatening a number of times, Leeds finally broke the deadlock on the hour as young Ben Parker's cross was turned in by Jermaine Beckford thirty-third mark of the year. While the consequences of the match are a debatable point, it served as a good marker for reviewing tactical compliance with Leeds earning a favourable grade-out.

Leeds returns to play against Northampton Town at Elland Road next Saturday with an eye towards the playoffs starting on 8 May.

Rangers advance to Scottish Cup final

The Rangers hopes of winning the Scottish Cup continued as they deal St Mirren 3-0. With the result the Gers will feature in the finals against either Falkirk or Dunfermline on 30 May.

Of the many highlights to the match, one of the most notable came with nine minutes remaining as nineteen year old Northern Ireland international Andrew Little made his debut for the Rangers. The Gers took the lead a single minute into the match as Andrius Velička continued his scoring streak as he got on the end of a loose ball from Kris Boyd's attempt and sent it to the back of the net. Down by one, St Mirren didn't back down and despite the Gers flirting with additional advances, the match went to the break without further mark. Finally six-minutes past the hour Steven Davis ripped a pass through the Saints defenders with Kris Boyd pounding the ball into the net to make it 2-0. Now reeling St Mirren were floundering and three minutes later Kenny Miller brought the match to a final 3-0 scoreline with once again Steven Davis initiating the goal.

The Rangers return to SPL play on 3 May as they welcome Hearts to Ibrox.

Timişoara defeats Gloria Bistriţa 1-0

With a short-week following Wednesday's victory over Iaşi, Gabi Balint's Timişoara squeezed out a narrow 1-0 victory over Gloria Bistriţa.

Led by noted Ioan Sabău, the Vampirii Albaştri showed a very impressive form and looked to heading to a scoreless draw before a late goal. In a very controversial call Mădălin Ciucă was shown his second yellow card with fifteen minutes left, forcing Bistriţa to play a man down for the balance of the match. Finally a minute into added time the deadlock was broken as Alexandru Curtean accepted Iasmin Latovlevici's pass and fired a shocking drive to the top left corner from twenty five metres past 'keeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu.

Timişoara returns to action next Saturday as they welcome Farul Constanţa whilst Gloria Bistriţa visits Unirea Urziceni.

Krylia Sovetov defeats Dinamo Moskva 1-0

Dinamo Moskva lost their second straight match falling 1-0 to Krylia Sovetov with the lone goal coming once-again by Czech international Jan Koller. Following the loss of Rubin Kazan to the resurgent Spartak Moskva, the victory leaves the Volga-region side at the top of the table, with an opening for CSKA who face Rostov on Sunday.

After early stages of being unable to take advantage of their attacking dominance Leonid Slutsky's finally took the lead two minutes before the half hour in the most unique fashions. Jan Koller provided Ruslan Adzhindzhal the ball as he surged into the right side of the box who then pulled the ball back and fired it via his right foot but struck Leandro Fernández into the lower abdomen. The ball immediately rebounded to the Czech striker who subsequently fired the ball into the opposite left corner. Following the goal, Dinamo was not short on intensity and were prepared to challenge every ball but time after time they couldn't make the needed touch for the last effort with the match concluding 1-0.

Rapid Bucureşti edges back into Europa League spot

Following last match-day loss to Argeş Piteşti, Marian Rada's Rapid Bucureşti crept into Europa League spot with a 2-0 victory over Pandurii Târgu Jiu.

Juliano Spadacio gave Rapid six minutes before the half-hour as he accepted Montenegro international Radomir Đalović provision at the top of the box before driving the ball in via a opportunistic deflection off Târgu Jiu defender Alin Chibulcutean. Spadacio doubled the margin with seventeen minutes remaining as he struck a free-kick to the left corner from twenty metres out.

Rapid returns to play next week as they travel to face Gaz Metan Mediaş whilst Pandurii Târgu Jiu welcomes Universitatea Craiova.

Spartak Moskva keeps winning

While being called "temporary" it is abundantly clear that with Valery Karpin in-charge, Spartak Moskva is an entirely different squad. Along with a deepened respect for the youth development Mr Karpin as instilled a sense of pride of wearing the crest that he knows so well. Although a more permanent move is in the offing, with Oleg Romantsev mentioned by many, the return of Spartak as a power looks promising.

Following last 2-0 victory Terek Grozny, Spartak management were pleased but media pundits expected the красно-белые to come out of Saturdays match-up against Rubin Kazan black and blue. Flying high in the early season, the defending champions have been fearless and yet to register a loss. As extra motivation Rubin players were expected to take a piece of Spartak's hide for last years 3-0 destruction in Kazan, effectively providing them opportunity for retribution.

All that changed today as Rubin's expectations turned sour as once again the красно-белые flew brilliantly with a 2-0 victory in Kazan. Once again the manager handed the goalkeeping duties to Russian U-21 keeper Soslan Dzhanayev along with teenager Yevgeni Makeyev and rewarded Denis Boyarintsev youthful play of late with a spot in the starting eleven against his old squad. After a scoreless opening half in which the stormy sides of Kazan painted an ominous backdrop for the match, the красно-белых had the lead early after the break. With bursting flares from traveling fans leading the way to the Rubin goal, Austria's Martin Stranzl found the mark four minutes after the restart as he out-fought at least four Rubin defenders to rise high and nod in Alex's corner to the far right post. Confidence billowed from the celebratory fans, fists in the air and their was no stopping the Valery Karpin-led side. Challenges were crisp as Spartak was not going to give up any ground uncontested as very quickly it was apparent this battle was theirs to be won. Just past the hour Spartak capitalized on a over-committed Rubin side and slit their hopes as Welliton was played a perfect though ball down the right channel and as the Rubin 'keeper Sergey Ryzhikov went out to meet him, the Brazilian deftly chipped the ball over him to bring the match to a 2-0 conclusion.

Everton falls short to Man City 2-1

Everton's eight match unbeaten streak at Goodison came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Man City on Saturday afternoon. Following the success in the FA Cup and the positive mid-week draw at Stamford Bridge the performance was definitely short on intensity. While the loss certainly is missed chance to overtake Aston Villa, two points ahead of the Toffees, the real concern was the injury to Phil Jagielka to a torn ACL. Unfortunately the grave nature of the injury will likely keep centre back till mid next season.

The Toffees gave up the lead five minutes past the half-hour as Robinho got under a Elano's long pass before slotting in past Tim Howard. Opportunities were sparse in what was ever increasingly a "off-day" as City made in 2-0 six minutes before the hour as free and clear Stephen Ireland volleyed Robinho's provision. Danny Gosling added a consolation goal late but there was no coming back and Everton dropped 2-1 to Man City.

Wolfsburg v Energie Cottbus match preview

Wolfsburg's puts their unbeaten streak in the Rückrunde as they travel to face Energie Cottbus Sunday afternoon. As Felix Magath's side going for their remarkable eleventh successive victory they are also aware that following Schalke's defeat of Bayern could give them a five point lead as the Bundesliga campaign enters its final month.

Die Wölfe are quite obviously going forward in a stunning run and while many will point to the Bosnian connection of Edin Džeko and Zvjezdan Misimović, along with Grafite for their scoring prowess at the root of their improved play is the new found iron-clad defending abilities.

While the Lausitz side have rarely expierienced success against Wolfsburg, Felix Magath is more than aware he must be careful against Cottbus as they are fighting to avoid relegation and will put up a spirited effort. Bojan Prašnikar's side will play a highly physical style and care must be taken to keep Dimitar Rangelov and former Oţelul Galaţi man Emil Jula under-wraps.

Rossoblu visit Bologna

The Rossoblu head to Bologna with their sites firmly set on earning a Champions League berth. Trailing Fiorentina by a single point, a victory would return Gian Piero Gasperini's side back into fourth place as they head into the final month of the campaign.

The big news of the for Genoa is the return of Diego Milito to the fold and he is expected to form the attacking trident alongside in-form Raffaele Palladino and Giuseppe Sculli. Genoa's health is returning to optimal with the only notable exceptions being Alessio Scarpi and Matteo Paro.

For the home side the recent play has been disastrous, losing five successive matches while being out-scored 15-4 during the period and costing Siniša Mihajlović his managerial job. With five matches remaining, their hopes to avoid relegation hopes will be greatly advanced with points against Genoa.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Les Rouge et Bleu frustrate Lyonnais

While not the optimal result, Les Rouge et Bleu are my very pleased with holding Lyonnais to a scoreless draw at Stade Gerland Friday evening. The result which most likely put the rest the defending champions quest for their eight successive championship while putting Paris Saint-Germain in good position to profit from their remaining matches.

For much of the first half, play was typified by gradually increasing tensions where challenges escalated like the winds of the spring. Stéphane Sessegnon led the way in many forms and his stubborn demeanor set the tone that the Parisians would not back down. After Karim Benzema missed the mark in the later part of the half, PSG was fortunate being adjudged a handball as the young strikers header attempt unquestionably struck Ceará. However while Stade Gerland screamed for just Paul Le Guen's side escaped that call and focused its attention upon air-tight defending of Lyonnais and waited for its moment to strike. As matches of this go, opportunities are the rarest of breeds and usually only present themselves once. Finally three minutes before the hour Ceará long diagonal ball set-up Guillaume Hoarau in on alone on l'OL 'keeper Hugo Lloris but his effort to the right was pushed aside and the deadlock was intact. Minutes later tension boiled over as Stéphane Sessegnon retaliated with a over done challenge of Jean-Alain Boumsong and was lucky to escape with just a yellow. L'OL controlled the majority of possession but attacking advances but fell short in the final third and the few that made it through fell victim to Mickaël Landreau's brilliant work as the match ended as a nil draw.

1899 goes from first the last

The Cinderella tale of 1899 Hoffenheim being the best team in the Bundesliga before the winter break has turned as they are one of the lowest ranked sides in the Rückrunde. The 1899 tale of woe continued today as they lost 1-0 to Hertha BSC.

From the start of the match 1899 were the aggressors, with the chief architect being
Sejad Salihović. After close calls before the quarter-hour, Christoph Janker added him name to those who could have given the 1899 the lead but as it proved out, once again the top attack of the Hinrude stalled to a trickle. In its only significant chance before the break Marko Pantelić sent the ball to Patrick Ebert on the right side of the box, who quickly sent the ball to the near post past Timo Hildebrand. Ralf Rangnick's charges poured forward with once again Bosnian international Salihović at the centre of the storm. However each opportunity feel shy including Boubacar Sanogo's effort that struck the crossbar just before the eightieth minute and match ended in another disappointing loss.

Roş-albii defeat Farul Constanţa 3-1

Following a 5-0 devouring of Gloria Bistriţa, Dinamo Bucureşti continued to drive forward for the championship defeating Farul Constanţa 3-1 today.

The Roş-albii were under pressure immediately as Willian Gerlem circumvented the Dinamo defenders to the left before his cross to Chico just outside the six-yard box went astray. Fifteen minutes later after a corner came to Ben Teekloh just outside the box to the left, the Liberian's twenty-metre drive forced the best out of the Dinamo 'keeper Emilian Dolha who served admirably in Bogdan Lobonţ's absence. However four minutes before the half hour Farul had the surprising 1-0 lead as Claudiu Voiculeţ's free kick from the left into the box was turned in by Bruno Simão as an own-goal. At the thirty-eighth minutes Dinamo equalized the match as Gabriel Torje sent the ball to Adrian Cristea on his left on the edge of the area, who then powered the ball to the bottom right corner. Only two minutes later after Cosmin Moţi led a fast assault, Ionel Dănciulescu scored near same spot to make it 2-1 as the Constanţa 'keeper seemed to be having problems with shadows creeping over the stands. Before the break Constanţa had strong claims of penalty denied as Alexandru Mãtel was upended in the area by Bruno Simão. After the break Dinamo extended its lead to 3-1 as Gabriel Torje capitalized on Ionel Dănciulescu's perfect through-ball down the right channel before chipping over the onrushing 'keeper George Curcă from eleven metres out. With eleven minutes left Farul was fighting for a way back in but were denied with a remarkable save by Emilian Dolha from Willian Gerlem close range header via Denis Alibec's pin-point cross from the left. However the best was still to come as veteran Claudiu Niculescu made it 4-1 with ten minutes left as he intercepted a back-pass from Ben Teekloh, circled the 'keeper to the right before striking the ball in.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Leeds heads to playoffs

Leeds travel to Hartlepool United on Saturday afternoon with a keen eye towards the playoffs. As Simon Grayson looks toward the final two matches, before the playoffs begin, he intends to keep create a winning momentum into the important dates. However injuries have stricken the Whites of late and they will need to juggle the realities of structuring play intelligently and not wearing down players before the run towards the Championship.

Against relegation concerned Hartlepool, Leeds is without play-maker Fabian Delph, who is in the sin-bin and Robert Snodgrass who has been dealing with a curmudgeonly ankle injury. The injury to the young Scot is most concerning as he will need to be fully-fit in the opening match. While there as been commentary of him returning to training early next week, they need to structure his return for the first playoff match less risk his involvement. Equally while it is tempting to utilize the striking combination of Luciano Becchio and Jermaine Beckford, now is the time to make more use of youngsters such as Tom Elliott with Liam Dickinson.

Man City travel to Everton

As Manchester City travel to Everton on Saturday afternoon, the media circus around Eastlands has kicked into high gear. Whether it is Micah Richards making use of his extraordinary vocabulary and further adding proof that the youngster is without discipline and needs to find a new home, Elano consistently causing rifts via the media and like Richards is incapable of discipline, Robinho's stunning under-performance on the pitch or of-course the ever-present transfer rumours, media hungry for content, pithy as it may be can rely upon the Citizens.

Shockingly their is an actual match to play and despite being dumped out of the UEFA Cup within a unsatisfying campaign, Mark Hughes et al are within reach of the Europa League berth. Improbable yes but within the wild and wholly Premier League season Man City has a glimmer of hope within the final five matches. Naturally it will require two things the side has been short on this year; a professional level of consistency and a morsel of intensity that generally exists beyond the oranges at the half group. Although the winds of spring provide little direction that they will find what has been absent since August, the chance is there if Mr. Hughes can convince his collective group to play with solidarity and respect for the crest.

On the injury front Craig Hughes knee problems have him out and while the Welshman is anxious to return it is best for his future that he concludes his season and begin a proper rehabilitation problem. In addition to the striker the Citizens will miss Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips and have significant doubts of Nigel de Jong.

Thoughts of catching Everton low on momentum need to be cast aside as the Toffees are riding a high at home. Following their stubborn draw at Stamford Bridge they are well positioned for a run at the Champions League and will enter this match ready to pounce on opportunities.

Partizan close-in on championship

Slaviša Jokanović's FK Partizan close-in on successfully defending their Super Liga championship with a 2-0 triumph over Borac Čačak. With the victory the defending champions hold a hearty sixteen point lead on trailing FK Vojvodina and Crvena Zvezda with nine matches remaining in the the campaign.

The match was far from easy for the defending champions and it took till the sixty-seventh minute for the deadlock to be broken when young Serbian international Adem Ljajić accepted a pass on the left channel just inside the Čačak before moving up near the area and brought the ball back to his right before unleashing a booming drive from twenty-five metres to the back of the netting. Nine minutes later Partizan doubled the margin as Lamine Diarra accepted a deep through ball down the right and upon back across the box, he played a perfect one-to with Almami Moreira who chipped the ball back to him with a perfect finish to the back of the net to follow.

Partizan can seal the championship against Hajduk on 3 May.

c'est du grand classique

Les Rouge et Bleu quest to win the championnat continues as Paul Le Guen and company venture to Stade Gerland Friday evening in the showcase match of weekend for Ligue 1.

Trailing the perennial champion a victory would catapult Paris Saint-Germain to within two points of first-place l'OM. For Lyonnais the situation is quite different. Winners of seven successive Ligue 1 championships, The droghte of March hath perced to the roote has carried forward to a stretch run with performances far below their pedigree. With six matches remaining in the campaign Claude Puel's side is not only fighting to continue its dominance in the decade but equally fall out of European competition that would have a massive financial impact.

Paul Le Guen will be without the services of Serbia maestro Mateja Kežman, Clément Chantôme and veteran defender Sammy Traoré whist Sidney Govou and César Delgado will miss for l'OL. To be successful in Lyon, PSG's attack of hometown hero Jérôme Rothen, Stéphane Sessegnon, Ludovic Giuly and Guillaume Hoarau will need to press their hosts without tactical guile whist Claude Makélélé, in what is appearing more and more like his final year playing, will need to keep Karim Benzema under-wraps.

1899 looks to respond against Hertha Berlin

Stumbling throughout the Rückrunde with only a single win, 1899 Hoffenheim welcomes Hertha BSC to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Friday afternoon. Six points out of a Europa League spot with only six remaining matches, Ralf Rangnick has cast aside ideas of playing on the European stage saying "There's no sense in aiming for that kind of target any more". For the match he will have 'keeper Timo Hildebrand back but will miss Andreas Ibertsberger, Matthias Jaissle and Bosnia and Herzegovina international Vedad Ibišević to injury as well as Carlos Eduardo and Luiz Gustavo to suspension.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

En Avant Guingamp to the Coupe de France finals

The Cinderella story of En Avant Guingamp continued as they defeated Toulouse 2-1 in the Coupe de France semi-finals.

Despite being in the lower part of the Ligue 2 table Victor Zvunka's side attacked the high-flying Toulouse. Guingamp took the lead at the half hour mark as Felipe Saad's incoming throw-in was headed-on by Wilson Oruma to Eduardo, who nodded the ball into the back of the net. The Breton side were forced to play a man down six minutes into the half when Richard Soumah received his second yellow of the night. With seventeen minutes a long ball to André-Pierre Gignac clear down the right and with a perfect right-footed half volley into the net the match was level. However Victor Zvunka was able to get a taste of revenge in defeating the club he coached over fifteen years ago as with a minute on the clock Wilson Oruma cross into the box took careened off a group of players and into the far left corner with Badara Sène credited with the historic goal.

The Guingampais side will now face Stade Rennais on 9 May at the Stade de France in a all Breton Coupe de France final.

Porto advance's to the finals of Taça de Portugal

Porto advance's to the finals of Taça de Portugal as they overcame a 2-1 loss to Estrela da Amadora at Estádio do Dragão to win 3-2 in aggregate.

Os Dragões took the lead only four minutes into the match as Freddy Guarín diagonal cross from the left found Lisandro López deep into the six yard box and after a controlling touch, he volleyed across to Ernesto Farías for a point-blank range finish. Three minutes after the half-hour mark it was showtime for the Silvestre Varela, who will join Porto this July, as he cleverly moved into the box and chipped to the far side of the box for Rui Varela to head past 'keeper Nuno. With four minutes remaining it was pure joga bonito as Pedro Pereira's cross into the box was sent to Rui Varela, who with it back to Rolando, who pounded the ball down with his left foot and as it rebounded overhead struck it near the back post for Anselmo to head in. With further mark the match ended 2-1, sending Jesualdo Ferreira's side to the finals.

Hajduk Split rolls 5-0 over Croatia Sesvete

Hajduk Split continued its nip and tuck battle for first-place with Dinamo Zagreb with a 5-0 destruction of relegation threatened Croatia Sesvete. The victory leaves Split just a point behind Zagreb for the championship and the all-important Champions League berth.

Ante Miše's side took the 1-0 lead eleven minutes in as Anthony Šerić's cross from the left was volleyed-in from close range by Bosnian international Senijad Ibričić. Ibričić doubled the margin only seven minutes later as he accepted a pass in the box before turning and firing in from twelve metres. Hrvoje Vejić, formerly of Tom Tomsk gave Split the 3-0 lead nine minutes after the restart as he got on the end of a rebound just outside the six-yard box before sending to the back of the net. Three minutes before the hour seventeen year-old Mario Tičinović showed great touch as he volleyed Mirko Oremuš cross from the right to the roof of the goal to make it 4-0.
Dario Jertec rounded out the scoring with eighteen minutes left as his free-kick over the wall from eighteen metres dipped in.

Hajduk Split returns to the quest for European football against Varteks Varaždin on May 3.

Green Whites move to Pokal final

The Green Whites took another step towards the DFB Pokal as they defeated Nord derby rivals Hamburg 4-2 on penalties. With the victory Werder advances to the DFB Pokal final at the Olmypiastadion on 30 May.

Thomas Schaaf's side took the lead eleven minutes in as Diego's free-kick from the edge of the left side of the box was pushed back at the last gasp by HSV 'keeper Frank Rost but the rebound was pounded in by German international Per Mertesacker from close range. HSV brought the match level seven minutes past the hour when on a fast counter Ivica Olić's effort was saved by Tim Wiese but the rebound came out left to Guy Demel. His quick shot was re-directed by Olić in to square the match up.

Without further scoring the match headed to extra-time and still thirty additional minutes the match headed to penalties. Although Joris Mathijsen converted for HSV, one after another Tim Wiese denied Jérôme Boateng, Ivica Olić and Marcell Jansen while Claudio Pizarro, Mesut Özil and Torsten Frings converted. Werder now has the chance to win the DFB Pokal for the first time since their victory over Alemannia Aachen in 2004.

Dinamo Zagreb battle Zadar to 2-0 victory

Dinamo Zagreb maintained their one-point lead on Hajduk Split with a 2-0 victory over NK Zadar. The relegation threatened Zadar were under siege early by Krunoslav Jurčić's side early but things were getting tense for Zagreb as a number of qualities chances went without a mark. Finally three minutes from the hour veteran Igor Bišcan took matters into his own hands as a poorly cleared cross into the box bounded to him before he volleyed-in. As time wound down Ivan Tomečak's free-kick from the right was headed-in to the far left post by Mario Mandžukic to bring the match to a 2-0 final.

Dinamo Zagreb returns to pay on 3 May against Europa League candidate HNK Rijeka.

Heerenveen move to KNVB Beker final

Trond Sollied's SC Heerenveen head to the finals of the KNVB Beker on the strength of a 2-0 victory over FC Volendam at KRAS-stadion. De Friezen have featured in the finals twice, last in the in 1997 against Roda JC but have yet to capture the prize. With the victory Heerenveen will face Steve McClaren's Twente, who defeated NAC Breda 3-1, in the final on 17 May.

The opening goal came ten minutes in as Volendam, Het Andere Oranje, were being swarmed and couldn't clear the ball out of their own end. After getting on the end of a loose ball Christian Grindheim, with at least five of Volendam in-front of him near the box, he drove forward before sending the ball to Viktor Elm who was inexplicably wide open before sending in from the edge of the box. Opportunities were sparse and Heerenveen were fortunate not to have a penalty called just before the break as Jacobus Tuyp went down in the area with contact from Michal Švec. Finally with six minutes left Danijel Pranjić accepted the ball from the far right and worked across the top of the box before curling the ball just inside the left post to bring it to a 2-0 conclusion.

Steaua Bucureşti and CFR Cluj play to draw

With both clubs fighting for a Europa League spot, the battle between Steaua Bucureşti and defending champions CFR Cluj had all the makings of a heavyweight title bout. For Marius Lăcătuş' the situation was clear as given the final Europa League spot, presently held by Universitatea Craiova, has four clubs within two points a victory was needed was they welcome Cluj to Bucureşti.

As expected, both sides took a curmudgeonly approach tactical and provided limited attacking opportunities as the match play to a 1-1 draw with both sides finishing off with ten men on the pitch. Cluj took the lead not quite nine minutes in as Juan Culio hit the mark from nine metres after Yssouf Koné sent him a perfectly weighted through ball through the left channel past Steaua defender George Ogăraru. Three minutes before the break the match boiled over with Florin Lovin shown a straight red-card forcing Steaua to play a man down. Despite the disadvantage eight minutes into the new half Steaua found the leveler as Tiago Gomes supplied Dayro Moreno the ball just outside the area and the Columbian international turned to fire past Cluj 'keeper Eduard Stăncioiu. Sixteen minutes later the clubs were playing on equal terms as Cluj captain Cristian Panin was sent off with his second yellow. Looking for the win with seven minutes remaining Steaua had a perfect chance as Ricardo Pedriel as in-clear on the Cluj goal via Sorin Ghionea's long provision but Stăncioiu dispatched him of the ball before he could get a final touch and the match ended 1-1.

Steaua Bucureşti returns the action on Sunday as they travel to face seemingly relegation doomed CS Otopeni whilst Cluj returns to Champions League quest as they welcome Oţelul Galaţi.

Arman Karamyan leads FC Timişoara to victory

Gabi Balint's FC Timişoara continued their push with a 3-0 victory over Politehnica Iaşi. Led by the brilliant work the Armenian international Arman Karamyan (Արման Քարամյան), Timişoara took the led at the eleventh minute as he accepted a long diagonal cross on the right and deftly out-maneuvered Iaşi defender Andrej Pečnik before sending the ball to the opposite corner past Iaşi keeper Răzvan Pleşca. Karamyan created a perfect opportunity for the second goal at the thirtieth minute as he crossed to Balázs Borbély in the box but the Slovak capped midfielders volley was easily dealt with by the Iaşi keeper. Timişoara extended its lead eight minutes into the new half via a one-man effort by Gheorghe Bucur who ran under a long ball down the left flank before turning back in front of the goal to score from eight metres. The day was not done as with six minutes left Iaşi keeper Răzvan Pleşca could only partially stop Lukáš Magera's shot from inside the box with the rebound coming to Karamyan's Armenian teammate Artiom Karamyan (Արտավազդ Քարամյան), who turned the ball in from four metres out.

Both clubs return to action on Saturday as Politehnica Iaşi welcomes Unirea Urziceni and FC Timişoara continues their race to catch Dinamo against Gloria Bistriţa.

Gaz Metan Mediaş continues fight to avoid relegation

Coming off a tough loss on the weekend to Steaua Bucureşti, Gaz Metan Mediaş is proving that they are not about to be relegated without a fight as they devastated CS Otopeni 3-0 today. After a scoreless opening half Zarko Marković broke the deadlock four minutes after the restart as he headed-in Eric's corner was headed back to him by Grillo Edson to send in from three metres. Only two minutes later Cristian Bud continued with his impressive form as he was played through by Marković and slotted the ball past 'keeper Cristian Munteanu from seven metres. Bud continued to pose problems and added his second of the day with eighteen minutes remaining he hammered in a booming shot from thirty metres to make it 3-0.

On Monday CS Otopeni welcomes Steaua Bucureşti while Gaz Metan Mediaş continues their fight for safety against Gloria Buzău in a massive six-point encounter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dan Petrescu's Unirea Urziceni keeps winning

Unirea Urziceni maintained pressure on Dinamo Bucureşti for the top spot with a tough 1-0 victory over FC Vaslui, extending Dan Petrescu's side unbeaten streak to nine matches. The matches lone goal came thirteen minutes in as Sorin Frunză free-kick from the left was volleyed in by Marius Bilaşco on the right edge of the six-yard box. While the legendary manager for Unirea Urziceni had expressed concern of his clubs competitiveness due to financial constraints, they are well position to take the league championship.

On Saturday Dan Petrescu takes his side to face Politehnica Iaşi while Vaslui welcomes FC Braşov.

Oţelul Galaţi defeats Farul Constanţa 2-0

Oţelul Galaţi increased Farul 's relegation concerns with a 2-0 defeat. Laurenţiu Iorga broke the deadlock for Galaţi a minute past the hour mark as he split Constanţa's defenders and drove the ball in off the far left post. John Ibeh added an insurance goal with fourteen minutes remaining as he drove the ball to the left corner from the edge of the area.

On Saturday Oţelul Galaţi face a difficult task as they travel to face defending champions CFR Cluj. Farul Constanţa is equally troublesome as they welcome a super-charged Dinamo Bucureşti who are coming 5-0 devouring of Gloria Bistriţa.

Argeş Piteşti undeafted at home defeating Rapid Bucureşti 1-0

Coming off a 3-1 victory over Braşov, Rapid Bucureşti manager Marian Rada had his sights set on the closing the gap for a Europa League berth as his side traveled to face Argeş Piteşti on Tuesday. However the Alb-Violeţii, enveloped within a sea of controversy regarding allegations that their owner Cornel Penescu has attempted to bribe officials, have still yet to lose at home this year defeated Rapid lost 1-0 with the matches only goal coming from Adrian Iordache a half-hour into the match. With Rapid exposed at the back Elias Bazzi, a product of the Boca Juniors system, sent a perfect long ball from his own end to Iordache who drove the ball with his left foot past goalkeeper Andrei Marinescu from ten metres. Two minutes into the new half Rapid had a chance to level the match when Florian Lăcustă was adjudged to bringing down Radomir Đalović in the area and the spot was pointed to. However Juliano Spadacio could not connect from the spot and Argeş Piteşti kept their home record intact winning 1-0.

Rapid Bucureşti returns to action this Friday as they welcome Pandurii Târgu Jiu while Argeş Piteşti faces a difficult trip to Universitatea Craiova.

Dinamo Bucureşti devastates Gloria Bistriţa 5-0

After a shock loss to Politehnica Iaşi this past weekend, Dinamo Bucureşti responded with a 5-0 devouring of Gloria Bistriţa. Marius Niculae opened the scoring at the twentieth minute in his first of three goals as he headed in Zé Kalanga's cross from twelve metres out. Surging down the left flank, Gabriel Boştină set-up the Romanian international with a perfect cross that Niculae headed in from ten metres four minutes before the hour. Niculae's third of the day came with eighteen minutes left on the clock as he headed in Gabriel Boştină pinpoint cross. With six minutes remaining Ionel Dănciulescu long cross was volleyed back to a near stop by Ianis Zicu straight onto the path of Osvaldo Miranda to pound into the back of the net from eleven metres. Ianis Zicu was provider in the second minute of added-time as he provided Ionel Dănciulescu the ball at the edge of the area before the veteran surged in and struck the ball to the far left corner from ten metres.

Both sides return to action on Friday as Dinamo Bucureşti welcomes Farul Constanţa with Gloria Bistriţa travels to FC Timişoara.