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This week in soccer

Corner Kicks

April 16, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Five things happening around the world:

1_The hottest player in Europe right now might not be Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo, despite his 38 goals this season, but rather Bayern Munich forward Luca Toni.

The Italian striker's most recent feat was to score an incredible four goals in 27 minutes in two competitions three days apart to bring his season tally to 31 goals.

On Thursday, Toni, who was acquired by Bayern Munich from Fiorentina in Italy 10 months ago for a bargain $17.4 million, scored two goals in the last five minutes of overtime to help the German club tie Getafe of Spain, 3-3, and thus advance to the semifinals of the UEFA Cup.

On Sunday, the 2006 World Cup winner, scored twice in the first 22 minutes of Bayern Munich's 5-0 rout of Borussia Dortmund, a victory that lifted the club 10 points clear of its nearest Bundesliga challenger.

"He's got this incredible winning mentality," said Bayern Munich Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

Toni, the Bundesliga's top scorer, has netted 18 goals in 26 league matches, 10 goals in 10 UEFA Cup games and three goals in three German Cup games this season as Bayern closes in on a trio of titles.

2_Toni's scoring feats might be the talk of Germany, but in Peru there is a goalkeeper being hailed for his own ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

Jhonny Vegas plays for a club called Sport Ancash in the Peruvian league, and on Sunday he bent a free kick around the defensive wall and into the net to record his second goal of the season in a 1-1 tie with Atletico Minero.

Peruvian statisticians said it was the 32nd goal of Vegas' career and made him the fifth-highest scoring goalkeeper in the record books behind Brazil's Rogerio Ceni, Paraguay's Jose Luis Chilavert, Mexico's Jorge Campos and Colombia's Rene Higuita.

3_It has been eight years since Lothar Matthaeus retired as a player, and for eight years Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning captain has struggled to make his mark as a coach.

On Sunday, Matthaeus announced he had signed a two-year contract to coach Maccabi Netanya of the Israeli league, a club whose previous most famous figure was Mordechai Spiegler, the scorer of Israel's first and only World Cup goal, in Mexico in 1970.

This will be the sixth stop on the Matthaeus coaching tour, the 47-year-old having previously tried his luck with Rapid Vienna in Austria, Partizan Belgrade in Serbia, Hungary's national team, Atletico Parananese in Brazil and FC Salzburg in Austria.

4_Controversial Brazilian striker Adriano is known as "the Emperor," which ranks slightly below what Diego Armando Maradona was known as, but they do share something in common.

After Adriano had scored both goals in Sao Paulo's 2-0 win over Palmeiras on Sunday, there were questions about the first, which appeared to have been steered in with his fist, a la Maradona's infamous "hand of God" goal in the 1986 World Cup.

Said Adriano: "It was the hand of the Emperor."

5_After its latest victory Sunday, combined with setbacks for its closest pursuers, Real Madrid is nine points clear and poised to win the Spanish Primera Liga title yet again.

All of which raises the question: Who is the best player in the illustrious 106-year history of the reigning champion?

According to a poll of Real Madrid fans in which more than 1 million votes were cast, the answer is Argentine-born striker Alfredo di Stefano, who emerged victorious with 28,466 votes to 28,344 for French midfielder Zinedine Zidane.

Di Stefano, now 81 and the club's honorary president, scored 418 goals in 510 games for Real Madrid from 1953 to 1963, during which he twice was named Europe's player of the year.

Finishing third in the voting was Spanish striker and current team captain Raul Gonzales, followed by Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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MAKING THEIR PITCH

Nick Rimando, of Real Salt Lake and former

UCLA Bruins goalkeeper, talking about the much-changed lineup of his former club, D.C. United:

'I had to go over there and start talking Spanish to them, and

I don't even know Spanish.'

STAT OF THE WEEK

Former UCLA and Galaxy

goalkeeper Matt Reis, above, of the New England Revolution broke the MLS record for consecutive minutes played, surpassing Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad's 6,648 minutes and pushing the mark

to 6,660 minutes.

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