AFC: Mixed fortunes for Korean clubs; AFC Cup Review
The AFC Champions League, Asia’s elite football competition, is back in action after a four month holiday and it proved to be a mixed bag for the South Korean quartet who make up half of the quarter-final draw. In the AFC Cup, the secondary competition equivalent to the UEFA Europa League or Copa Sudamericana, Middle Eastern clubs continue to dominate with five teams from that region remaining in the tournament whilst the other three quarter-finalists hail from the south east of the continent. After some intensive first leg matches Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews all of the action.
South Korean clubs have had a near perfect record so far in the AFC Champions League with all four K-League representatives making it through to the last eight with ease. They have found it tough going so far in the quarter-finals with a mixed bag of results. Defending AFC Champions League holders Pohang Steelers faced a tricky away tie in Iran and came away with a 2-1 defeat to Zob Ahan FC. Igor gave Zob Ahan the lead after 17 minutes only for Mota to restore parity for Pohang in the 56th minute. The deciding first leg goal came in the 76th minute when Mehdi Rajabzadeh converted from the penalty spot. With two of the four Korean sides paired together in the last eight it means that the country will have at least one team in the semi-finals. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma look best placed to be that team after Wednesday’s first leg tie after beating compatriots Suwon Samsung Bluewings by four goals to one with Dženan Radončić bagging a brace. Mauricio Molina and Yang-Sang Min were also on the scoresheet for Seongnam who now have one foot in the next round despite Yeom Ki-Hun’s lone reply for Suwon. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors surprisingly lost at home to Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab by two goals to nil. Fahad Al Yamani and Juan Manuel Oliveira scored the goals which did the damage in the second half and the victory was slightly diminished by the showing of a red card to Abdulmarek Alkhaibri in the 86th minute. The final 1st leg match was played in Riyadh as Saudi Arabia’s second representatives Al Hilal set up a nice advantage for the return leg next Wednesday defeating Qatari side Al-Gharafa by three goals to nil.
The AFC Cup quarter-final 1st legs also got under way this week with Middle Eastern sides featuring prominently on Tuesday. Syrians Al Karamah had Mohamed Al Zeno to thank for gifting them a goal’s advantage after their 1-0 win over Thailand’s Muangthong United whilst Bahraini Premier League side Al Riffa overcame the challenge of Vietnamese SHB Da Nang by a comfortable 3-0 margin with Saleh Ahmed Farhan, Abuda and Rico amongst the goals. Syrians Al Ittihad beat Kuwaiti side Kazma by the odd goal in five in what was an exciting game. Al Ittihad looked to have a comfortable lead for the 2nd leg when they went 3-1 up in the 90th minute only for Kazma to score four minutes into stoppage time to give themselves a chance at home in the return fixture. The final game in the round finished as a goalless stalemate between Thai Port (Thailand) and Al Qadsia (Kuwait).
The quarter-finals in both competitions come to a conclusion next week.