Friday, April 06, 2012
Official ACL Update
Former champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Gamba Osaka both registered timely first wins of the AFC Champions League this week as the Group Stage of the 2012 edition reached the halfway point with Al Jazira and Al Ittihad maintaining the only 100% records.
Last year’s beaten finalists Jeonbuk ended Buriram United’s perfect record in Group H as first half goals from Lee Dong-gook and substitute Seo Sang-min ensured the K-League champions bounced back from beginning the new continental campaign with back-to-back 5-1 defeats.
With J.League champions Kashiwa Reysol and Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande sharing a goalless draw in Japan, 2006 champions Jeonbuk moved within three points of Thai treble winners Buriram, who saw their lead at the top cut to two points.
“Having won three points, we are happy but we know that there is a long road ahead. I do not believe we are playing at our best due to injuries,” said Jeonbuk coach Lee Heung-sil.
“We are certainly confident about our chances in the next game at home. We will do our best to try and get more wins.”
Under the guidance of new coach Masanobu Matsunami, Gamba picked up their first win of 2012 as two penalties from Brazilian striker Rafinha and a third goal by former AFC Player of the Year Yasuhito Endo earned the J.League side a 3-1 win over Bunyodkor in Group E.
Matsunami took over as Gamba coach last week following the dismissal of Jose Carlos Serrao and, after picking up a point in their J.League encounter against Albirex on Saturday, the 2008 winners earned their first win of the season after defeats by Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers and Adelaide United had threated the campaign of the 2008 champions.
"I am happy with my first win as manager, and this was brought by a team effort. But we are not the side to celebrate just because of one win. We will fix what we have to fix to move on to the next game,” said Matsunami.
"This victory gives us three points, which means a lot to us as our group is pretty even and competitive.”
Gamba’s win, coupled with Pohang’s 1-0 home victory over Australia’s Adelaide, leaves all four teams covered by just three points, with clear of Gamba and Bunyodkor three points off the pace.
Adelaide saw their 100% record ended as an uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic handed Pohang a 1-0 win at a chilly Steelyard.
Galekovic had been the cornerstone of Adelaide's wins over Bunyodkor and Gamba, but the Reds captain failed to hold Hwang Jin-sung's 68th minute free-kick and Kim Dae-ho pounced to turn the ball home from close range.
UAE Pro League champions Al Jazira, meanwhile, have one foot in the Round of 16 after posting an impressive 2-1 win over Esteghlal in Iran, while two-time winners Al Ittihad edged closer to sealing passage from Group A after edging out debutants Baniyas 1-0 in Jeddah.
Brazilian Bare netted the winner with 18 minutes remaining as Al Jazira handed Esteghlal their first ever home defeat in the AFC Champions League to move five points clear of Iranian side at the top of the table.
Qatar’s Al Rayyan sit a further point off the pace after picking up their first points of the campaign as goals from Rodrigo Tabata, Daniel Goumou and Ahmed Alaadin secured a hard-fought 3-1 win over spirited AFC Cup winners Nasaf.
In Group B, Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad needed an 80th minute penalty from Naif Hazazi to end Baniyas’ unbeaten start to their maiden AFC Champions League campaign and also move a step closer to securing passage to the last 16 after reaching the semi-finals last year.
With Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor beating Al Arabi of Qatar 3-1 thanks to late goals from Dilshod Sharofetdinov and Temurkhuja Abdukholiqov, Al Ittihad also moved five points clear of Baniyas and Pakhtakor with three games remaining.
Elsewhere, Japanese Emperor’s Cup winners FC Tokyo remained three points clear at the top of Group F alongside Ulsan Hyundai after extending their unbeaten start with a 1-1 draw with Beijing Guoan.
Aria Jasuru Hasegawa’s second goal of the campaign a minute before half-time at the Workers’ Stadium cancelled out Wang Xiaolong’s early penalty as Beijing were forced to settle for a second consecutive 1-1 draw at home.
With K-League side Ulsan coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Australia’s Brisbane Roar, unbeaten duo Ulsan and FC Tokyo lead the way with winless pair Beijing and Brisbane both still in touching distance just three points off the pace.
Japan’s Nagoya Grampus, meanwhile, posted the first win in Group G after easing to a 3-0 victory over Tianjin Teda thanks to goals from Jungo Fijimoto, Keiji Tamada and Kensuke Nagai.
With the first five games in Group G ending all square after Central Coast Mariners and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma shared a 1-1 draw in Australia; Nagoya moved two points clear at the top of the table.
In Group C, Brazilian striker Bruno Correa scored with a minute remaining as Iran's Sepahan secured a 2-1 win over recently-crowned Qatar champions Lekhwiya to maintain an unbeaten record.
Sepahan top the table three points clear of Al Ahli after midfielder Taisir Al Jassim scored one and set up another as the Saudi side beat Al Nasr 2-1 in Dubai.
Finally in Group D, Iran’s Piroozi pulled four points clear at the top of the table after beating Qatar’s Al Gharafa 3-0 in Doha, while Saudi champions Al Hilal were forced to settle for a third consecutive draw after coming from behind against Al Shabab Al Arabi as a tight contest finished 1-1 in Dubai.
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