Talk about leaving it for the 11th hour.
Faced with a must-win situation on the final day of the regular season to stay in French Ligue 1, AC Ajaccio and Mexican international goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa found their backs to the wall on Sunday.
Instead of stumbling, they came up big, blanking Toulouse, 2-0, on the road to jump to 16th place, two places and three points out of the dreaded relegation zone.
Ajaccio, which entered that vital encounter with only 12 road points, finished with a 9-15-14 record and 41 points, two points ahead of 18th-place SM Caen (9-18-11, 38) in the 20-team league. Toulouse took eighth place with a 15-12-11 mark and 56 points.
Ochoa certainly pulled his weight as he produced three saves and blocked another shot. He stopped Amadou Soukouna in the 26th minute and denied Moussa Sissoko in a one-on-one situation a minute later. Ochoa saved second-half substitute Umut Bulut header shot in the 83rd minute. Two minutes later Bulut hit the post.
Midfielder Johan Cavalli was Ajaccio's goal-scoring hero, striking in the 20th and 31st minutes.
Ochoa can now join the Mexican National Team for World Cup qualifying, secure knowing that he will play in Ligue 1 next season. El Tri will open its CONCACAF semifinal qualifying round, hosting Guyana on June 8 before traveling to El Salvador on June 12.
Daniel Luduena, Oribe Peralta, Aldo de Nigris, Humberto Suazo
After falling to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final last month, Santos Laguna exacted revenge by capturing the Clausura crown over its rivals in Torreón, Mexico. Luduena and Peralta tallied to boost Santos to a 2-1 second win after tying in the first leg, 1-1. Santos, which earned its fourth title since it was founded in 1983, won the series, 3-2. Luduena gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute and Peralta doubled it in the 65th minute. de Nigris sliced the margin in half for Monterrey in the 79th minute. In Thursday's first leg, Suazo, a Chilean, converted a penalty kick in stoppage time to help Monterrey to a 1-1 tie after Peralta tallied in the 69th minute.
He might be a member of the best team in the UEFA Champions League, but the Spanish striker doesn't necessary feel a vital member of it. In fact, Torres does not know whether he will return to Chelsea next season as he was disappointed he did not start for the Blues in their Champions League victory over Bayern Munich on Saturday. Chelsea, on a miracle run, prevailed on penalty kicks.
"This season I have felt things that I hadn't felt before. I feel that I have been treated in a manner I did not expect, not the way they said when I signed for the club," Torres told Spanish newspaper AS. "We have had many conversations and now the season is finished we will talk to see what happens with my future because what I have gone through this year is not the role for which I came. There have been many highs and lows, many times I felt lost. I wasn't sure what to do, I felt like I didn't know where to be."
Torres, an 84th-minute substitute on Saturday, scored only 11 goals for Chelsea this season after joining the team on an $80 million transfer.
The Argentine scored the equalizing goal in the 61st minute for Paris Saint-Germain in its 2-1 victory over Lorient, but it wasn't enough as Montpellier captured its first league championship ever with a 2-1 win at Auxerre. PSG finished two points behind Montpellier.
Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi
Cavani, a Uruguayan striker, converted a penalty kick in the 62nd minute to start Napoli to a 2-0 triumph over Juventus to capture the Coppa Italia. The win snapped Juventus' unbeaten streak. Cavani's goal was his 33rd of the season as he put home his spot kick after Marco Storari took down Lavezzi, an Argentine, in the penalty area. Marek Hamsik added an insurance goal in the 83rd minute.
Guardado and Déportivo la Coruña fell short on its march to the Segunda Division title in Spain. They went down to a disappointing 3-2 defeat to host Xérez. The Mexican international midfielder set up Déportivo's first goal in the ninth minute after Maldonado gave Xérez a second-minute lead. Guardado sent a short pass to Ayoze Díaz, who crossed the ball to Lassad Nouioui some six yards out. Nouioui found himself unmarked and easily beat goalkeeper Toni Lechuga for the first of his two goals. Guardado was replaced by Saul in the 75th minute.
Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona and Lionel Messi can close out the Pep Guardiola era on a high note if the powerhouse captured Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao on Friday. Guardiola, who has coached Barca for four years, is targeting his 14th championship with the club. Under Guardiola, Barca has won two Champions League titles, three La Liga crowns, one Copa del Rey, three Supercopas, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups. "We don't like that he's leaving. The last match will be sad, we have to win to turn that sadness into joy so we can give him a happy send off," goalkeeper Jose Pinto told the Press Association. "I hope it works out this way, we're motivated. We're all awaiting that moment."
An Ecuadorian, Ibarra scored the second goal in the 84th minute for Vitesse Arnhem in its 2-1 second-leg win over RKC Waalwijk to clinch a berth in next season's Europa League. Vitesse won the first leg, 3-1, on Thursday.
Molina, a Colombian, scored in the first half for FC Seoul, which moved into first place in the K-League behind a 2-1 win over Gwangju.
The Argentine scored for third-place Young Boys in a 3-0 win over Sion in the Swiss First Division.
Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuaín
Strikers Messi, Aguero and Higuaín were among the big names selected to the Argentine roster for its home World Cup qualifier vs. Ecuador on June 2 and international friendly against Brazil at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on June 9. The biggest surprise on the roster was defender Matias Rodríguez (Universidad de Chile), who received his first call-up. Carlos Tévez, Aguero's teammate at English Premier League champion Manchester City, PSG's Pastore and Genoa's Rodrigo Palacio were left off the roster.
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria)
Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Matias Rodríguez (Universidad de Chile), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Federico Fernández (Napoli), Hugo Campagnaro (Napoli), Marcos Rojo (Spartak Moscow)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Roma), José Sosa (FC Metalist), Maxi Rodríguez (Liverpool), Pablo Guinazu (Internacional), Eduardo Salvio (Atletico Madrid)
Forwards: Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli), Angel Di María (Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuaín (Real Madrid), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales
Montero, a Colombian striker, set up the Seattle Sounders' first goal and struck for the 90th-minute equalizer in a 2-2 tie at the Vancouver Whitecaps. Montero and Rosales, an Argentinean, helped Eddie Johnson scored to level the game at 1-1 in the 47th minute. After the hosts grabbed a 2-1 lead, Montero eluded three defenders and fired a shot inside the penalty area for his dramatic score.
Blas Pérez, Gabriel Gómez
The Major League Soccer confrontation between FC Dallas and the Philadelphia Union ended in a 1-1 tie as a pair of Panamanian players who are expected to play key roles during World Cup qualifying scored for their respective sides. Perez struck first for host Dallas in the seventh minute before international teammate Gabriel Gomez tallied in the 56th minute to equalize for Philadelphia.
The Guatemalan international midfielder set up the equalizing goal for the Chicago Fire in its 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers. Pappa intercepted a Steven Smith pass in the 40th minute, before sending a Jalil Anibaba a perfect pass. Anibaba then back goalkeeper Troy Perkins to the back post.
Guatemala and Mexico will face each other in friendlies on Friday and Saturday. The games will take place in Sipacate, Guatemala and will serve as a tune-up for both sides prior to the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship.
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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