Title twists on the club front

Title twists on the club front

(FIFA.com) 5 June 2007
Although international action took centre stage over the weekend, club football also provided its share of drama. With the Argentinian Clausura Championship at a critical stage, the Saudi Arabian Championship reaching its conclusion and the fight to reach the Major League Soccer playoffs taking shape, FIFA.com takes a look at developments.

Johnson leads the way
It is an exciting time in Major League Soccer. With the impending arrival of David Beckham and its clubs' enduring flirtation with big name players from across the globe, the burgeoning championship is entering somewhat of a golden period. But while supporters are eager to witness the England international and company parade their talents on North American shores, the competition's existing standouts continue to provide their own brand of entertainment.

Leading the way is Eddie Johnson, who made history over the weekend by becoming the first-ever player to post successive hat-tricks in the MLS. The adidas Golden Shoe recipient at the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003, the spring-heeled striker's treble took him to the top of the 2007 season's scoring charts. Moreover, it clinched Kansas City Wizards a 3-2 win over New York Red Bulls, who fielded Claudio Reyna and the on-song Juan Pablo Angel, sending the Missouri outfit to the summit of the Eastern Conference standings, two points above their visitors, whose unbeaten away record came to an end.

In the Western Conference, a Ricardo Clark-inspired Houston Dynamo secured the local bragging rights by recovering a deficit to beat pool leaders FC Dallas 2-1.

San Lorenzo on the cusp
San Lorenzo players left the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona pitch in deflated mood following a 1-1 draw with Argentinos Juniors on Saturday, fearing their three-point cushion at the top of the Argentinian Clausura Championship going into the round would be reduced as the tournament approaches its conclusion. But a late Ruben Ramirez goal snatched Colon a 2-1 win over second-placed Boca Juniors, who, with one eye on their forthcoming Copa Libertadores semi-final, second leg against Cucuta, rested several key players.

Xeneize coach Miguel Russo had hoped his depleted charges would have enough in the tank to see off their struggling opponents, but Ramirez's killer blow left them four points shy of the leaders with just two games remaining. Meanwhile, Racing Club all but ended Estudiantes' hopes of repeating their 2006 Apertura Championship success by running out 2-0 winners, a result that left Los Pincharratas six points off the pace.

Al Ittihad steal dramatic triumph
Al Hilal stormed to a first-placed finish in the Saudi Arabian Premier League's regular season, and consequently entered their playoff final against Al Ittihad as the favourites to add to their record ten crowns. When Omar Al Ghandi thundered home the opener for the Zaeem against the club he served as a youth, the country's biggest prize appeared to be on its way to Riyadh.

However, Al-Ittihad refused to read the script and 15 minutes from time, Usama Al Mowallad volleyed in an equalising goal. Then, deep into injury time and with extra time imminent, Alhassane Keita's pinpoint cross was headed past Al Hilal keeper Mohammed Al Deayea by Hamad Al Montashari, clinching his side their first domestic championship title since 2003 and a place in next season's lucrative AFC Champions League.

Chonburi regain the ascendancy
The Thai Premier League signed off for its mid-season recess with the battle for honours taking another sharp twist. After sliding from the summit in midweek, Chonburi swept aside Osotspa to recover top spot in the standings from Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, who conceded a late goal to draw 1-1 with BEC Tero Sasana. Pipop On-Mo was again the hero for Chonburi, extending his impressive run of form in front of goal with a brace.

The Shark now front the title race on 27 points, with Tobacco Monopoly in second and BEC Tero, who possess a game in hand on the their rivals, resting confidently on 23 points.


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