With Qatar’s Lekhwiya and Jordan’s Al Wahdat having recently claimed their respective league titles, Iran’s Sepahan this week edged closer to following suit, while Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates also remain firmly on course despite dropping points. In the Far East, heavyweights Pohang Steelers moved up to K-League top with triumph, while defending Chinese champions Shandong Luneng stumbled against Tianjin Teda.
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United Arab Emirates: Al Jazira stay perfect
Despite sharing the spoils with second-placed Bani Yas in a 1-1 draw, runaway leaders Al Jazira maintained their ten-point lead and, with just six rounds left, the Abu Dhabi outfit are well placed to claim their maiden league title. At the other end of the table, strugglers Al Ittihad Kalba swapped places with Dhafra after prevailing 2-1 in the two sides' crunch meeting.
Big game: The top-of-the-standing clash ended in dramatic fashion as Al Jazira escaped defeat at Bani Yas courtesy of Thamer Mohammed's own goal in added time. After a goalless opening half, Andre Senghor put Bani Yas ahead after 68 minutes only for Mohammed to gift the visitors a point - a result which keeps Al Jazira's unbeaten run intact.
Headline-grabber: Bani Yas may have missed out the chance to narrow the gap with the leaders but their Senegalese marksman Senghor cemented his place at the top of the scoring charts by extending his tally to 15.
Iran: Sepahan back to winning ways
After surprises aplenty in the previous round of matches, which had seen every one of the top three stumbling, this week adhered to the expected script, with the leading trio all bouncing back with wins. At the top, Sepahan went a further step closer towards their third title with a 3-1 triumph at Teraktor Sazi. With four rounds left, the holders maintained their five-point cushion on Zob Ahan, who recorded a 2-1 home win over Shahrdari Tabriz. Hot on their heels are Esteghlal, who emerged 1-0 victors at Rah Ahan to stay within touching distance.
Big game: Ibrahima Toure was twice on target as Sepahan outstripped Teraktor Sazi for their 17th win of the season. He struck on 28 minutes to give his side a first-half lead and although the hosts drew level through Haji Safi Ehsan's own goal, defender Mohsen Bengar restored the lead before Toure sealed the win ten minutes from time.
Headline-grabber: Iraqi midfielder Hawar Mulla Mohammed is not usually renowned for his scoring prowess but he was the hero for Esteghlal, netting a crucial, match-winning goal against Rah Ahan to keep his team’s title hopes alive.
China: Holders’ derby disappointment
Paulo Pezzolano scored the only goal against Qingdao Jonoon as Hangzhou Greentown maintained their perfect record to stay on top. Sharing first place with them are Shaanxi Chanba, who edged out Henan Construction 3-2 for their third straight win. Liaoning Whowin, who struggled last year, overcame hosts Jiangsu Sainty 1-0 for their second victory, while newly-promoted Guangzhou Yiyao remain undefeated after twice coming from behind to hold Beijing Guoan to a 2-2 draw.
Big game: Dominating attention, of course, was the crunch tie between last year’s champions and runners-up respectively: Shandong Luneng and Tianjin Teda. What had been expected to be an even game, however, turned out to be one-sided in the latter's favour, with Tianjin running out 3-1 winners. Two goals in a space of three minutes from Chen Tao and Emanuel Obiora Odita gave the hosts a first-half 2-0 lead before Li Benjian struck on the hour-mark to put the result beyond doubt. Han Peng may have pulled one back for the visitors but his goal proved too late, too little.
Headline-grabber: Shenzhen Ruby coach Phillip Trousseir is still searching for his first point in his debut Chinese season after a 2-0 defeat at Shanghai Shenhua. With this result, Shenzhen remain rooted to the foot of the table alongside Jiangsu Sainty after three rounds.
Beaten to the title by Waitakere United a week ago, New Zealand’s Auckland City well atoned for the domestic disappointment by reclaiming the continental title with a 6-1 aggregate win over Vanuatu's Amicale in the 2011 OFC O-League final. Entering the decisive return match at home with a 2-1 advantage from the previous leg, the City fired an unanswered four goals past the visitors to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011.
In Korea Republic, a goalless draw at Sangju Sangmu Phoenix cost Daejeon Citizen their place at the top and allowed Pohang Steelers to reach the summit with a 3-1 victory at Jeju United. Suwon Bluewings saw off Gangwon FC 2-0 to move up to second but defending champions FC Seoul slipped to fifth from the bottom in the 16-strong standings after sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Ulsan Hyundai Horangi.
After Jordan’s Al Wahdat secured the Manasir Jordan Pro League title with four games to spare last week, the focus switched to the battle for the runners-up spot, with Al Faysali beating Shabab Al Ordon 2-1 to leapfrog their rivals into second.