Seongnam’s Cho Byung-Kuk beats Nick Ward in a 3-2 win over Melbourne [AFP]
Japanese powerhouse Kashima Antlers earned the honour of being the only team to win all six of their Asian Champions League group games while Beijing Guoan booked a berth in the knockout rounds.
Kashima beat Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors 2-1 on Wednesday with their dominant run securing them top spot in Group F and home advantage in the one-leg knockout stage against defending champions Pohang Steelers.
That match will be a family affair, with Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliveira’s younger brother Waldermar Lemos de Oliveira at the helm of Pohang.
South Korean international Lee Jung-Soo opened the scoring for Kashima, heading home a pinpoint corner from Takuya Nozawa, who got on the scoresheet himself two minutes later with a lightning shot.
Jeonbuk pulled one back through Jin Kyung-Sun but Kashima got behind the ball to keep their 100 per cent record intact.
It condemned Jeonbuk to a trip to Australia to play Adelaide United for a place in the quarter-finals.
“Jeonbuk are tough opponents and their quality is high. It gives us confidence that we defeated such an excellent team,” said Oliveira.
“Today’s game was the most impressive among our six wins. We were able to finish the group round in very good style.”
In the group’s other match, Indonesia’s Persipura Jayapura bagged their first points of the tournament when they beat a lacklustre Changchun Yatai of China 2-0 with goals from Eduard Ivakdalam and Yustinus Paew.
Tuesday April 27
Wednesday April 28
Korean outfit Seongnam Ilhwa had already secured home advantage for the round of 16 on May 11 and 12 before they kicked a ball but refused to relax, grinding out a 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory.
Cheon Kwang-Jin put them in front before substitute Mate Dugandzic drew Melbourne level to set up a frantic finale with three goals in 11 minutes.
Do Namkung restored Seongnam’s lead on 72 minutes before Tom Dugandzic pounced for the equaliser five minutes later. The Korean’s never gave up and Jo Jae-Chul handed them the winner seven minutes from time.
Chinese Super League champions Beijing Guoan grabbed the east zone’s eighth and final spot in the knockout round with a 2-0 win against Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale.
Beijing finish second behind Seongnam in Group E with goals either side of half-time by Australian Joel Griffiths and Brazilian Valdo making them the first Chinese club to qualify since 2008.
In the west, Saudi giants Al Ittihad, the two-time champions, were defeated 1-0 by Zobahan of Iran who finished top of Group B with Uzbek side Bunyodkor taking the runners-up spot with a 4-1 win over Al Wahda of UAE.
Mohammad Khalatbari’s second-half strike was enough to secure a 1-0 victory for Zobahan.
Khalatbari struck just before the hour mark as Zobahan won their fourth game in the group stage and set-up an all Iran clash with Mes Kerman in the knockout stage.
Playing in Taskent, Bunyodkor qualified with two goals from Denilson, the opener from Rivaldo and Azizbek Haydarov netting the fourth with an exquisite 35-yard strike into the top corner.
“I’m happy with result but I expect tougher matches in next rounds,” said the Bunyodkor’s World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
“I’m satisfied with the win but we played against a weak team.
“Everything was in our hands tonight. We will have to play against Al Hilal without Denilson and Ignatiy Nesterov, who will be suspended. But I’m not ready to talk about their replacements.”
In Group A, Nasser Kamil’s last minute goal earned Qatari champions Al Gharafa a 1-0 win at Al Ahli in Jeddah to claim top spot with Tehran giants Esteghlal finishing as the group runners-up after going down 2-1 to Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi.