Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

AFC Champions League: Group Stage Review

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on April 28, 2010
AFC Champions League

Sixteen teams will now participate in the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League

The AFC Champions League group stage has reached its conclusion and “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the action group by group:

GROUP A (Al-Gharafa 6/13; Esteghlal 6/11; Al-Ahli 6/6; Al-Jazira 6/4)

Qatari side Al-Gharafa topped the group after a slip up from Iranians Esteghlal on Matchday 6. Esteghlal led the way going into the final round of matches but were made to pay by bottom side Al-Jazira who chalked up their only win of the tournament thanks to goals from Saleh Basheer and Mousa Mohammed in a 2-1 win after Farhad Majidi had given Esteghlal the lead. Later in the day Al-Gharafa capitalised on the Tehran side’s slip up by defeating Saudis Al-Ahli by a single goal to nil thanks to Naseer Kamil’s stoppage time winner.

GROUP B (Zob Ahan 6/13; Bunyodkor 6/10; Al-Ittihad 6/8; Al-Wahda 6/3)

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Bunyodkor side had a major scare before sealing their place in the last sixteen of the competition. After Matchday 5 they were third in the group behind Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad and in serious danger of missing out on the knockout stage. Fortunately for the big money Uzbek side they went through thanks to a lot of luck. Firstly they were victorious in their final game against Al-Wahda on Matchday 6 with Rivaldo among the goals in a 4-1 win. Secondly group leaders Zob Ahan did Big Phil’s side a massive favour by defeating Al-Ittihad 1-0 with Mohammed Khalatbari’s 53rd minute strike enough to ensure the Saudi Arabians’ exit from the tournament.

GROUP C (Al-Shabab 6/10; Pakhtakor 6/9; Sepahan 6/8; Al-Ain 6/7)

Iranian league leaders Sepahan blew their opportunity to go through to the round of 16 as they suffered a 2-0 reverse away at bottom club Al-Ain on Matchday 6. Argentinian striker José Sand scored a brace to give a little respectabilty back to Al-Ain’s campaign. Saudi Arabian representatives Al-Shabab came from behind against Uzbekistanis Pakhtakor to win 2-1. After Sherzod Karimov had given Pakhtakor the lead eight minutes before half-time Al-Shabab came back well and turned it around thanks to goals from Marcelo Camacho and Flávio. The three points allowed Al-Shabab to gin first place at the expense of their opponents.

GROUP D (Al-Hilal 6/11; MES Kernan 6/9; Al-Sadd 6/8; Al-Ahli 6/5)

There was much drama in this group on Matchday 6 as three teams fought for two places to the knockout round of the tournament. The leadership of the group went to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal despite their 3-1 defeat to MES Kernan in the final round of matches and this meant that Al-Sadd had to win if they were to regain top spot whilst any other result would mean that they finish third behind MES Kernan and miss out altogether. Sadly for Al-Sadd  they allowed Dubai based team Al-Ahli to equalise in the 90th minute of a game they’d fought so hard to win. After falling behind as early as the 14th minute Al-Sadd came from behind to go 2-1 up at the interval but, alas, heartbreak followed when Ali Abbas Al-Hosany equalised to give Al-Ahli a share of the spoils and, thus, deny Al-Sadd a berth in the last sixteen.

GROUP E (Seongnam Ilhwa 6/15; Beijing Guo’an 6/10; Kawasaki Frontale 6/6; Melbourne Victory 6/4)

It’s been a disappointing campaign for former Australian champions Melbourne Victory. Only weeks after losing their domestic crown to Sydney FC they saw their continental hopes go up in smoke. Koreans Seongnam Ilhwa were almost faultless in the group winning five games and going down to just one defeat at the hands of Kawasaki Frontale on Matchday 5. That victory gave Kawasaki the opportunity to progress to the round of 16 as runners up providing that they beat Chinese champions Beijing Guo’an on Matchday 6. Alas, Beijing made home advantage count by beating Frontale 2-0 thanks to goals from Joel Griffiths and Valdo.

GROUP F (Kashima Antlers 6/18; Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 6/12; Changchun Yatai 6/3; Perispura Jayapura 6/3)

Japanese champions Kashima Antlers established themselves as one of the favourites to win the competition this year by blowing away all the opposition in the group stage to go through with a 100% record. South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors suffered two defeats at the hands of the group leaders but were untroubled for the rest of the campaign to easily grab the second qualification spot. Indonesia’s Persipura Jayapura were the whipping boys of the group but even they had their moment of glory in their final game against Changchun Yatai to get three hard-earned points on the board.

GROUP G (Suwon Samsung 6/13; Gamba Osaka 6/12; Singapore Armed Forces 6/4; Henan Construction 6/3)

Suwon Samsung Bluewings overtook Japan’s Gamba Osaka at the top of the group thanks to a resounding 6-2 victory over Singapore Armed Forces in their final match. Gamba, meanwhile, were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw away at Chinese side Henan Construction which put paid to their hopes of qualifying as the group’s top side. What hurt most for Gamba Osaka was conceding a last minute equaliser to their hosts after the Japanese side had been ahead since Takashi Usami’s 39th minute opener. This meant that the Bluewings pipped Gamba Osaka to the group leadership by a solitary point but both teams will be, nevertheless, pleased to go through to the round of 16.

GROUP H (Adelaide United 6/10; Pohang Steelers 6/10; Sanfreece Hiroshima 6/9; Shandong Luneng 6/6)

Adelaide United and defending champions Pohang Steelers knew that they were through to the round of 16 before a ball was kicked on Matchday 6 but both teams still wanted to top the group. Despite both teams positions they both went down to defeats in the final round of group matches with Adelaide losing 1-0 to Chinese side Shandong Luneng thanks to Li Wei’s 53rd minute strike whilst Pohang Steelers were involved in a very topsy-turvy game against Japanese outfit Sanfreece Hiroshima. The Japanese side were 3-1 up at half-time but the Steelers showed their resolve to bring the game back to level terms midway through the second half. Surprisingly Sanfreece Hiroshima scored the winner with nine minutes remaining to deny Pohang Steelers the point they needed to secure top spot in the group.

ROUND OF 16

Al-Gharafa (Qatar) v Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan)

Al-Shabab (Saudi Arabia) v Esteghlal (Iran)

Zob Ahan (Iran) v MES Kernan (Iran)

Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) v Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan)

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (South Korea) v Gamba Osaka (Japan)

Suwon Samsung Bluewings (S.Korea) v Beijing Guo’an (China)

Kashima Antlers (Japan) v Pohang Steelers (S.Korea)

Adelaide United (Australia) v Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (S.Korea)

Matches to be played on May 11-12

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