Asia: Saudi clubs impose themselves on Champions League
Saudi Arabian football will be well represented in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League. Following this week’s Round of 16 matches three sides from Saudi Arabia made it through to the last eight with another five teams, all hailing from different nations, to join them in the business end of the tournament.
Al Ahli, who finished second in their domestic championship this season, will join compatriots Al Ittihad and Al Hilal with all three teams encountering different levels of difficulty in order to qualify. Al Ahli had to go through the tension and drama of a penalty shoot-out following a 3-3 after extra-time against UAE outfit Al Jazira. Al Hilal made much easier work of another side from the United Arab Emirates, namely Baniyas SC, thrashing them to the tune of seven goals to one with Korean Byung-Soo Yoo getting on the score sheet four times. Al Ittihad also made light work of Iranian giants Persepolis, eliminating the Tehran based club 3-0.
In the all-Iranian clash Sepahan FC, who won their domestic championship this season, will hope to add continental honours to the trophy cabinet after defeating Esteghlal 2-0 thanks to goals from Bruno Correa and Mohsen Bengar. South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai won through a difficult encounter by the odd goal in five in a 3-2 win over Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol. South Korea’s representation was halved, however, following the elimination of 2010 Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma who lost out to a Hayrulla Karimov penalty in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Uzbekistan champions Bunyodkor FC.
China and Australia also enjoy representation in the last eight following triumphs for Ghangzhou Evergrande and Adelaide United respectively. Ghangzhou, now under the management of former FIFA World Cup winner Marcello Lippi, were thankful to Brazilian striker Cleo who was the lone marksman on target in a 1-0 win over FC Tokyo. Australian side Adelaide also went through against Japanese opposition, defeating Nagoya Grampus Eight by the same score line thanks to a Jonathan McKain goal three minutes before the half-time break.
The draw for the remainder of the tournament will be made on Friday, June 14th in Kuala Lumpur.
In the AFC Cup each of the eight quarter-finalists hails from a different nation as the competition proves to be geographically diverse. The biggest winners in the Round of 16 stage were Iraqi side Arbil SC who defeated Neftchi Farg’ona of Uzbekistan by four goals to nil. Kelantan got the better of compatriots Terengganu as the all-Malaysian clash finished in a 3-2 win for the former. Arema FC, who hail from Indonesia, also went through at the expense of Hong Kong champions Kitchee SC with a 2-0 win. There were also wins for Al Kuwait, Al Ettifaq (Saudi Arabia), Al Wehdat (Jordan), Al Shorta (Syria) and Chonburi FC (Thailand).