AFC: South Korean clubs winless as Champions League resumes
The 2011 AFC Asian Champions League has reached the quarter-final stages with the first legs taking place today. As has been the case in recent years South Korean clubs feature prominently in the last eight of the competition with FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors involved this time. There are also two clubs from Iran (Zob Ahan and Sepahan FC) and one each from Saudi Arabia (Al-Ittihad), Japan (Cerezo Osaka) and Qatar (Al-Sadd) making up this year’s octet of hopefuls.
Sole Japanese representatives Cerezo Osaka were involved in a topsy turvy fixture at home to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the game of the day. Lee Dong-Gook scored a brace either side of Ryuji Bando’s 28th minute goal for Cerezo to put the Koreans 2-1 up at half-time. There was no let-up in the action after the break with Cho Sung-Hwan (Jeonbuk) and Hiroshi Kiyotake (Cerezo) trading goals to make it 3-2 to the visitors just before the hour mark. The Japanese side turned the game around in the last third of the game with a penalty from Kim Bo-Kyung and Kiyotake’s second goal sealing a hard fought 4-3 win for Osaka.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings, back-to-back champions in this competition in 2001-02, were unable to make home advantage count in their opening leg against last season’s defeated finalists Zob Ahan. The Iranians took the lead after 56 minutes through Mohammed Ghazi but the Bluewings equalized ten minutes later thanks to Park Hyun-Boem and with the score line ending up 1-1 it sets up an interesting return leg in the Iranian city of Isfahan in two weeks time.
FC Seoul, last season’s K-League champions, have yet to win the Asian Champions League and following their first leg tie away at Al-Ittihad it may prove difficult for them to win a maiden title. The Saudi Arabian side, who are two-time Asian champions, took the lead on the stroke of half-time with Mohammed Noor putting The Tigers ahead. The Jeddah-based side saw Osama Al Harbi double their lead on 76 minutes only for Seoul’s Kim to pull one back with seven minutes to play. The first leg was settled in stoppage time with Brazilian player Wendel settling matters by helping Al-Ittihad to a third goal and give his side what could be a crucial two goal cushion in the return leg.
Finally, in the only game of the round not involving a South Korean club, there was just one goal to separate Sepahan FC and Al Sadd with Omid Ebrahimi’s 12th minute goal deciding the game in the Iranians’ favour. The victory was dampened somewhat by the sending off of Akbar Imani just before the hour mark having picked up his second yellow card of the match.