Football made an emotional return in Japan following the recent earthquake and tsunami, while on the western side of the continent Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal are on the verge of claiming another title. An exciting finale is looming in Iran, while FIFA.com’s weekly review of Asian club football also takes in the action in India, Korea Republic and Thailand.
Japan’s J.League: Football returns to centre stage
Domestic football resumed in Japan amid emotional scenes some six weeks after natural disaster devastated the nation. Appropriately enough it was Vegalta Sendai’s match which featured most prominently on the opening day. Yuki Nakashima scored a late winner for a 2-1 victory over big guns Kawasaki Frontale for the team from the heart of the country’s massively damaged north. However seven-time champions, Kashima Antlers, suffered a shock 3-0 defeat to Yokohama Marinos in a match moved to Tokyo's National Stadium because of damage to Kashima's stadium.
Big game: The league’s best supported team, Urawa Red Diamonds, downed champions Nagoya Grampus 3-0 with goals from Marcio Richardes, Tatsuya Tanaka and Genki Haraguchi. Dragan Stojkovic’s team are second from bottom with just one point accrued from their opening two matches.
Headline-grabber: Brazilian midfielder Leandro Domingues scored the only goal of the game ten minutes after the interval as Kashiwa Reysol won 1-0 at Omiya Ardija to remain the only team with a perfect record.
Iran's Pro League: Esteghlal close upon Sepahan
A 6-2 big win over Sanat Naft saw Esteghlal leapfrog Zob Ahan into second and reduce the gap on leaders Sepahan to three points. Despite the pressure, though, the defending champions still look well on course for their third title, and a home victory over Saba in their game in hand will restore their six-point cushion. In the relegation zone, Rah Ahan moved up to third from bottom courtesy of a 2-2 draw at bottom side Steel Azin, but they still lie a point behind Saipa, who lost 1-0 at Mes.
Big game: Mehdi Seyed-Salehi struck in each half as hosts Esteghlal produced the biggest win of the round over Sanat Naft. Levon Pachajyan put the visitors ahead after 13 minutes, but Seyed-Salehi drew the home side level eight minutes later, before Mojtaba Jabari was on target on the half-hour to give Esteghlal a 2-1 half-time lead. After Hadi Shakouri and Farhad Majidi both scored to make it 4-1, Seyed-Salehi netted his second to put the game beyond doubt. Roohollah Arab may have reduced the deficit in the closing stages but Arash Borhani scored in added time to round off a thrilling triumph.
Headline-grabber: Mes' Brazilian forward Eder Luciano struck the only goal against Saipa to cement his place at the top of the scoring-chart. With 19 strikes to his name the 28-year-old is leading Sepahan ace-striker Ibrahima Toure by a goal.
Saudi Arabia's Professional League: Al Hilal on verge of retaining title
Twelve-time Saudi champions Al Hilal moved within a point of their title-defence, courtesy of a solitary-goal victory at Al Nasr on Sunday. With three rounds remaining the holders maintained their nine-point lead over Al Ittihad, who saw off ninth-placed Al Fath 2-0.
Big game: Al Hilal continued their impressive unbeaten run by winning the much-anticipated Riyadh derby over Al Nasr, with midfielder Abdulaziz Al Dawsari scoring the only goal on 39 minutes. Their city rivals did come close to drawing level on more than one occasion during the second half, with Omar Hawsawi heading just over, but Hilal did well to hold onto their advantage for three points.
Headline-grabber: Nigerian striker John Jumbo netted a hat-trick as his Al Qadisiyah earned a much-needed 4-1 win at Al Ra'ed in a result which lifted them away from the relegation zone.
Pohang Steelers remain top in Korea Republic as late goals gave the 2009 Asian champions a 2-0 victory at home against Ulsan Horangi to move four points clear of a congested table. Suwon Bluewings slipped from second to fourth on goal difference following a 2-1 home defeat against Gyeongnam FC. Reigning continental champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma remain near the bottom with just one win from seven outings after a loss on the road at Jeju United.
In India the title race has been reinvigorated after leaders Salgaocar suffered a surprise 3-1 home defeat against Dempo, who moved two points shy of their opponents at the summit. Ahead of Dempo on goal difference with five rounds to play are Churchill Brothers and East Bengal although the former, who have played two matches extra, missed the chance to go top after conceding an injury-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Air India.
Thailand champions Muang Thong United continue to struggle for form and their scoreless draw at bottom side Sriracha left them eight points off the top with just five wins from their opening ten matches. Leaders Buriram PEA edged Tot-Cat 1-0 to remain three points clear of Chonburi who won by the same scoreline against Chiangrai United.