The 2012 AFC Champions League semi-final line-up was complete after Tuesday and Wednesday’s quarter-final second legs, with Saudi duo Al Ittihad and Al Ahli progressing to set up an all-Jeddah showdown in the last four, while Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor will face Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai for a berth in the continental decider.
While all four sides emerged triumphant over two legs, they booked their respective progression in vastly contrasting fashion. Al Ittihad needed a late goal from Fahad Mosaed Al Muwallad to edge Guangzhou Evergrande 5-4 on aggregate despite losing 2-1 on the night, while only an extra-time header by Alibobo Rakhmatullaev saw Bunyodkor scrape through against Adelaide to seal their second semi-final appearance.
Ulsan, though, put four unanswered goals past Al Hilal to be in cruise control with a 5-0 aggregate victory. Also winning in equally comfortable fashion were Al Ahli, who saw off a ten-man Sepahan 4-1 at home, having being held to a goalless draw in the first meeting. Join FIFA.com as we detail some enthralling action from across Asia.
Bunyodkor 3-2 (aet) Adelaide United
Adelaide United may have boasted a slight historic edge heading into the return with Bunyodkor at Tashkent with one more victory from their five previous meetings. However, it was the hosts that avenged their semi-final exit in the 2008 edition by prevailing 3-2 after extra time for a 5-4 aggregate triumph. In a drama-charged 120 minutes during which three red cards were shown, with Adelaide reduced to nine men and Bunyodkor's Anvar Gafurov also sent off, the home side twice battled from behind to claim a famous comeback win.
Iain Fyfe put the visitors ahead with a low shot after only four minutes, but Lutfulla Turaev headed home a Viktor Karpenko cross on 20 minutes to draw the hosts level. Shortly after substitute Jeronimo Neumann restored Adelaide’s lead on the hour-mark, though Bunyodkor equalised again through Akmal Shorakhmedov to force extra time. With a penalty shoot-out looming, Rakhmatullaev headed home a famous winner with six minutes left.
Al Hilal 0-4 Ulsan Hyundai
Entering the return match at Riyadh trailing by a solitary goal, Al Hilal had been boosted by recent home form which had seen them thrash Baniyas 7-1 in the Round of 16. The Saudi giants, however, suffered their biggest defeat in this year's campaign at the hands of K-League outfit Ulsan Hyundai, who booked their second semi-final place having also reached the last four in 2006.
Brazilian striker Rafinha proved the visitors' hero, striking twice within the space of three minutes midway through the first-half to give his side a 2-0 lead. Kim Shinwook headed into an unguarded net nine minutes into the second half to put the game beyond doubt, before Lee Keunho concluded the scoring with a header.
The other attractions
In Tuesday’s matches, two-time winners Al Ittihad booked their fifth semi-final appearance in breath-taking fashion. Arriving at Guangzhou with a 4-2 first-leg advantage, the visitors saw parity restored within 35 minutes. With their hopes hanging by a thread, coach Raul Caneda brought on dynamic forward Naif Hazazi after the restart, before replacing captain Mohammed Noor with striker Fahad Mosaed Al Muwallad. And his tactical gamble paid off, when Hazazi's headed cross found an unmarked Muwallad, who sealed their progression with a deflected shot.
Hours after Al Ittihad sealed progression, their city rivals Al Ahli booked passage at the expense of Sepahan. Having played out a goalless draw in the first leg, both sides entered the rematch seeking a breakthrough but the visitors were dealt a severe blow when goalkeeper Reza Mohammadi was dismissed before the half-hour mark. From the resulting penalty, Victor Simoes put the hosts ahead, before Amad Ali latched onto a rebound to double the lead. Although Farshid Talebi pulled one back for the Iranians, the in-form Ali completed a brace before the break to restore the two-goal lead. Abdulraheem Jezawi then struck 20 minutes from time to confirm Al Ahli's first-ever semi-final appearance.
Player to watch
Amad Ali, having last year scored the only goal as Oman famously stunned Australia in a qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, this time proved decisive for Al Ahli by earning a penalty, before scoring twice to help his side to a landslide win against Sepahan.
4 – The number of matches played between Al Ahli and Sepahan, as well as Bunyodkor against Adelaide this season.
What they said
"We were the better side throughout 90 minutes, but it was the opponents that progressed. Sometimes you have the cruel result, and bad luck. During my over 80 European games, I had enjoyed differing fortunes, bad or good, but tonight Lady Luck was against us," Guangzhou Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi
Quarter-finals, second leg
Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1 Al Ittihad (4-5 aggregate)
Al Ahli 4-1 Sepahan (4-1)
Bunyodkor 3-2 (aet) Adelaide United (5-4)
Al Hilal 0-4 Ulsan Hyundai (0-5)