Unfashionable Cerezo Osaka stunned 2008 champions Gamba Osaka with a dramatic late winner to reach the AFC Champions League quarter-finals alongside Jeonbuk Motors. Daisuke Takahashi struck two minutes from time to settle a tense derby at Expo '70 Stadium and send one half of Osaka into raptures, as their rags-to-riches tale continued in their debut campaign in the competition.
The result extended a fairytale run for the minnows, who were only promoted to the J.League in 2009 but finished third in their maiden season last year. And it could not have been sweeter for Cerezo than dispatching local rivals Gamba, a leading light of Japanese football who have a clutch of domestic silverware but have not gone past Asia's last 16 since their conquest of three years ago.
The decisive moment came when Kim Bo-Kyung found Takahashi on the edge of the box and the midfielder struck an angled shot past Gamba goalkeeper Yosuke Fujigaya.
Takahashi said: "Everybody's strong feeling allowed us to score the goal. I didn't hesitate, because I had been determined to hit a shot. In the past, Gamba were famous as Osaka's club, so I wanted to change the image."
In the past, Gamba were famous as Osaka's club, so I wanted to change the image.
Brazilian coach Levir Culpi said Cerezo had "turned the tables" on Gamba as they qualified for the marathon championship's two-legged quarter-finals in September. "It was a dramatic victory," he reflected. "I want to praise my players and our supporters. They had a strong will to win. That resulted in this victory.
"Gamba have been working under the wing of (coach Akira) Nishino for almost ten years and it's not easy to beat them. But my players turned the tables. We are determined to make history without being satisfied with today's result. We will be ready for the quarter-finals in September.
Meanwhile 2006 champions Jeonbuk enjoyed a 3-0 win over Tianjin Teda, which snuffed out Chinese interest in the competition. Brazilian midfielder Eninho struck in each half, sandwiching Lee Sung-Hyun's effort on 43 minutes as the Korea Republic side maintained their record of reaching the quarter-finals in all five of their Champions League campaigns.
Al Ittihad gained revenge on Al Hilal after missing out on the Saudi League title to their Riyadh rivals by ending their continental challenge courtesy of a 3-1 triumph at Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium. The hosts took the lead in the 15th minute when a long ball picked out Abdelmalik Ziaya on the left wing and the Algerian striker drove towards goal before squaring to Mohammed Noor on the edge of the box.
The midfielder's neat pass caught the Al Hilal defence flat-footed and picked out Nuno Assis' perfectly-timed run in the box. The Portuguese midfielder then smashed a clinical first-time finish past keeper Hasan Al Otaibi.
Al Ittihad doubled their lead two minutes later when Ziaya headed home Paulo Jorge's cross from the right from six yards out at the back post and Assis added the third just before the hour when he latched onto another exquisite Noor pass and lobbed the Al Hilal keeper.
Abdualziz Aldawsari grabbed a consolation when he checked back just outside the area and curled a left-foot shot over keeper Mabrouk Zaid and into the back of the net but could not prevent new boss Dimitri Davidovic enjoying a successful return to the Al Ittihad helm.
Sepahan followed up domestic title success with a 3-1 victory over Bunyodkor at the Foolad Shahr that saw them reach the last eight. Fabio Januario put Sepahan ahead in the first-half with a swerving 30-yard effort that deceived keeper Ignatiy Nesterov, and Ibrahima Toure doubled the lead with a sublime finish when he latched onto a through-ball and lifted it over the Bunyodkor keeper.
The striker was then sent off after the break for punching a Bunyodkor player in the wall as the hosts lined-up a free-kick and Slavoljub Djordjevic pulled one back for Bunyodkor with a header. However, the defender then hauled Milod Janjus in the box shortly afterwards and Hadi Aghily rifled the penalty into the top corner.
The tournament will take a four-month break after this week's games before returning in September for the quarter-finals, followed by the semi-finals a month later and the final in November.
Asia's premier club competition has become dominated by teams from Japan and Korea Republic, with no west Asian winner since Al Ittihad completed their back-to-back wins in 2005.