Nagoya reach knockout stages

Nagoya Grampus ease into knockout rounds of Asian Champions League, joining Seoul and China's Tianjin Teda.

    Nagoya's Hikaru Kuba is brought down by Hangzhou goalie Jiang Bo leading to the winning penalty [AFP]

    Japan and South Korean sides continued their dominance in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.

    Japanese champions Nagoya Grampus and South Korea's Seoul FC reached the knockout rounds of Asia's premier footballing competition, joining Japan's Kashima Antlers and K-League sides Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Jeonbuk Motors who qualified on Tuesday.

    China's Tianjin Teda also qualified with victories in the penultimate round of group games, and Qatar's Al Gharafa kept their hopes alive with a confident win over UAE's Al Jazira.

    Other West Asian sides through are Saudi side Al Ittihad, Qatar's Al Sadd and Zobahan of Iran.

    In form

    On a night dominated by the efforts of Manchester United in European Champions League, Nagoya Grampus were engaged in their own Champions League battle.

    In Japan, Nagoya midfielder Jungo Fujimoto converted a penalty in the 77th minute as Dragan Stojkovic's side overcame the absence of several injured first-choice players to beat China's Hangzhou Greentown 1-0.

    Nagoya had a goal ruled out for offside and also hit the post but their efforts finally paid off in the second half when forward Hikaru Kuba was pulled down by Hangzhou goalkeeper Jiang Bo for a penalty.

    Jiang received a yellow card and Jungo Fujimoto scored from the spot.

    "Before the game we faced a lot of problems (injuries), but today I think we achieved our goal - it was to make a good game to win and to qualify for the next round," said Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic.

    The result eliminated Hangzhou from contention.

    In the other Group F match, Seoul recorded a 3-0 win over Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates.

    Midfield Han Ko-yo scored the opener in the 17th minute, and Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic made it 2-0 in the 40th. Damjanovic capped the night with his second in the 73rd.

    Nagoya and Seoul lead the group with a game to play. Nagoya are next at Al Ain and Seoul at Hangzhou. Nagoya have the better head-to-head record against Seoul, so will finish top of the group if they can at least match the Korean club's result on May 11.

    Top spot in the group is vital, as it brings home advantage in the next round.

    Tianjin win

    In the tightly contested Group E, Tianjin progressed after a 3-0 home win over South Korea's Jeju United.

    Tianjin's opening two goals came from corners. In the eighth minute, Argentine forward Luciano Olguin rose above the defence to head home, then in the 21st an unmarked Wu Wei'an was first to a rebound to shoot into an empty net.

    It should have been 3-0 before the break, but Olguin's tap-in of a cross by Wu was incorrectly ruled out for offside. The Chinese club sealed the three points in the 75th minute when Chen Tao sprinted clear after a defender misjudged a header, and was brought down by Jeju goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun. Cao Yang converted the spot kick.

    Gamba Osaka drew 1-1 away to Melbourne Victory, meaning the second qualification spot is still up for grabs.

    Melbourne went ahead early through an Adrian Leijer header but Sota Nakazawa levelled before half-time.


    Wednesday May 4

    Group A
    Al Gharafa 5-2 Al Jazira
    Sepahan 1-1 Al Hilal

    Group B
    Al Nassr 4-0 Pakhtakor

    Group E
    Melbourne 1-1 Gamba Osaka
    Tianjin Teda 3-0 Jeju United

    Group F
    Nagoya 1-0 Hangzhou 
    FC Seoul 3-0 Al Ain 

    Gamba Osaka manager Akira Nishino admitted his players had been surprised by the intensity of Melbourne's approach after the Australian side lost the reverse fixture 5-1.

    "They were very strong, especially late in the game. Given what happened in the first game, I think my players were surprised," he said.

    Gamba have seven points, Jeju are on six and Melbourne have five going into the final match day. Gamba will host the qualified Tianjin, while the Victory travel to Jeju.

    In Doha, Al Gharafa's Younus Mahmood scored a hat-trick while Amara Diane and Mirghani Al Zain also scored in a come-from-behind victory over the UAE's top club team.

    Mahmood opened the scoring in the 10th minute before Al Jazira's Ahmed Jumaa took a cross from Khalid Sebil and levelled the match in the 31st minute. The UAE team took the lead six minutes later when Al Gharafa keeper Qasam Burhan brought down striker Ali Ahmed in the box. Ricardo Oliveira converted the penalty.

    But the Qatari club levelled the match three minutes into the second half when Diane slipped a shot past the Al Jazira keeper Ali Kashief.

    Al Zain gave Al Gharafa the lead for good on the hour mark and Mahmood closed out the match with two goals in the 62nd and 80th minute.

    In Group B, Saudi side Al Nassr inflicted a 4-0 defeat on Uzbek outfit Pakhtakor to leave them needing a draw away at Iranian side Esteghlal to progress to the last 16.

    The defeat ended Pakhtakor's hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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