Big three through to Asian knockout

Pohang Steelers and Adelaide go through after 0-0 draw and are joined by Gamba Osaka.

    Gamba's Takashi Usami (right) tussles with Li Wei-Feng [AFP]

    Defending champions Pohang Steelers drew 0-0 with Adelaide United as they both reached the Asian Champions League knockout round along with Japanese giants Gamba Osaka.

    The result between the South Koreans and the 2008 runners-up from Australia on Tuesday left Sanfrecce Hiroshima of Japan and Shandong Luneng of China out of the running in Group H.

    Japan's Gamba scored a winner in injury time for a 2-1 win over Suwon Bluewings of South Korea, who booked their place in the last 16 two weeks ago.

    They join South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa and Jeonbuk Motors, and J-League champions Kashima Antlers in the round of 16 starting May 11-12.

    Both Osaka and Suwon were quick on the counter-attack, with the Korean side coming close in the first-half through Chinese defender Li Weifeng and Brazilian striker Jose Mota.

    The Koreans opened the scoring in the 58th minute when Mota nodded home from a corner.

    But only two minutes later Osaka drew level as up-and-coming midfielder Takashi Usami played in Takahiro Futagawa to score, with Usami netting the winner in stoppage time.

    Hurdle

    "Our hurdle was to reach the next round today. My players played a tough game. They never gave up until the end trying to win three points and they made it," said Osaka coach Akira Nishino.

    Results & fixtures

    Tuesday April 13

    Group C
     Pakhtakor 3-2 Al Ain
     Sepahan 1-0 Al Shabab

    Group D
     Al Ahli 2-1 Mes Kerman
     Al Hilal 0-0 Al Sadd

    Group G
     Gamba Osaka 2-1 Suwon
     Singapore AF 2-1 Henan

    Group H
     Shandong 2-3 Hiroshima
     Pohang 0-0 Adelaide

    In the other early games, Lee Tadanari scored his second goal in injury time to give Hiroshima a 3-2 win over Shandong, while Erwan Gunawan hit home a decider to give Singapore Armed Forces their first win beating Henan Jianye of China 2-1 in Group G.

    In Group D, Saudi giants Al Hilal drew 0-0 with second-placed Al Sadd of Qatar.

    Victory for the Riyadh club would have secured them first place and home advantage in the round of 16.

    Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates, on one point, will hope Al Hilal win, meaning their 2-1 victory over Mes Kerman from Iran on Tuesday would then leave the Dubai-based club with an outside chance of advancing.

    In Group C, bottom-placed Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates lost 3-2 to Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan to kill off any realistic hope of progressing beyond the group stage.

    Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia failed to secure a place in the next round as they lost 1-0 at Sepahan of Iran.

    SOURCE: AFP


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