Esteghlal and Gharafa go through

Iranians and Qataris progress to knockout round of Asian Champions League with wins.

    Former Lyon midfielder Juninho strikes the ball for Qatar's Al Gharafa [AFP]

    Iranian side Esteghlal and Qatari champions Al Gharafa secured their places in the knockout stage of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday with wins in their Group A matches.

    Esteghlal maintained their lead of the group and a place in the last 16 with a 2-1 victory in front of almost 65,000 of their supporters over third-placed Al Ahli to become the first Iranian side to reach the second round of this year's tournament.

    First-half goals by Mahi Salehi and Amir Sadeghi were sufficient to get them the three priceless points.

    Al Gharafa had an easier time of it with Clemerson Araujo scoring a hat-trick as they thumped bottom-placed Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates 4-2 in Doha.

    Zobahan could have joined their fellow Iranians in the next round also on Wednesday but whilst they stayed top of Group B they incredibly lost 1-0 to United Arab Emirates outfit Al Wahda, who suffered defeats in all four of their previous matches in this season's tournament.

    Zobahan are two points clear of Saudi Arabian giants Al Ittihad, champions in 2004 and 2005, who were held 1-1 at home to the Luiz Felipe Scolari-coached Uzbek outfit Bunyodkor, who are third three points behind Zobahan.

    D-day for Saudis

    Zobahan and Al Ittihad face each other in Iran in the final round of group matches on April 28 where the Saudi side really need to win to progress as Bunyodkor host Al Wahda.

    ACL results

    Wednesday April 14

    Group A
     Esteghlal 2-1 Al Ahli
     Al Gharafa 4-2 Al Jazira

    Group B
     Al Wahda 1-0 Zobahan
     Al Ittihad 1-1 Bunyodkor

    Group E

    Kawasaki 3-0 Seongnam
     Melbourne 0-0 Beijing

    Group F
     Changchun 0-1 Kashima  Jeonbuk 8-0 Persipura

    Earlier Chinese Super League champions Beijing Guoan and Japan's Kawasaki Frontale kept alive their hopes of reaching the knock-out round.

    Beijing dashed Melbourne Victory's ambitions by holding them to a goalless draw, while Kawasaki whipped group leaders Seongnam Ilhwa 3-0.

    Seongnam have already qualified for the next round.

    With one more game each remaining in the group stage, Beijing have seven points, Kawasaki have six points ahead of Melbourne on four points in Group E.

    Beijing and Kawasaki will face each other in the final group round game on April 28 to decide who progresses.

    The Chinese champions looked clearly the better outfit against the Australian A-League champions, with 17 shots on goal to Victory's six and dominating the corners 10-2.

    Beijing's Australian striker Joel Griffiths was always dangerous and had a header go narrowly wide in the 62nd minute with Melbourne goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak rooted to the spot.

    Meanwhile in Kawasaki, Brazilian Renatinho collected a rebound and sent a cross for Hiroyuki Taniguchi's opener in the third minute, before Yusuke Tasaka made it 2-0 in the 21st minute.

    Renatinho added one more in the 68th minute on a penalty.

    J-League champions Kashima Antlers and K-League champions Jeonbuk Motors, who have already secured their places in the knock-out round, notched up another win each before their final encounter for top place in Group F.

    Japan international striker Shinzo Koroki beat a defender and won a one-on-one encounter against Changchun Yatai goalkeeper An Qi
    in the 37th minute to give Kashima a 1-0 win.

    Jeonbuk smashed Persipura Jayapura of Indonesia 8-0.



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