With many of the leagues in west Asia either concluded or taking a break ahead of this week’s AFC Champions League action, FIFA.com’s weekly review of domestic action focuses on the eastern half of the continent. Headlining is Japan’s J.League where the elite continue to struggle in a midtable log-jam, with a similar scenario continuing to play out in Korea Republic. Both leagues saw new leaders stamp their mark at the top over the weekend, as was the case in India and China PR, while keenly fought contests continued in Singapore and Malaysia.
Japan’s J.League: Lead swaps again in congested table
Kashiwa Reysol regained first place with a 3-1 defeat of competition powerhouse Urawa Red Diamonds for their fourth win from five starts. A further point back are Yokohama Marinos and Vegalta Sendai, with the former coming back from two goals down to beat Avispa Fukuoka 3-2. Previous leaders Sendai conceded a goal in injury time to draw 1-1 with Cerezo Osaka.
Big game: Vissel Kobe edged struggling heavyweights Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 with Korean midfielder Park Kang-Jo netting the lone goal a minute after entering the match as a second-half substitute.
Headline-grabber: The opening of the J.League has been highlighted by some inconsistent performances from the league’s big guns. Seven-times champions Kashima Antlers, current league champions Nagaya Grampus, and the league’s best-supported club, Urawa Red Diamonds, have managed just a win apiece after five rounds. The Antlers didn’t play on the weekend, while Dragan Stojkovic’s Nagoya continue to stutter in their title defence, this time held 1-1 at home by Shimizu S-Pulse.
India’s I-League: Quartet charge towards finish line
With just two rounds remaining Salgaocar surrendered top spot after drawing 2-2 at Mohun Bagan, allowing fellow Goan-based side Churchill Brothers to move top by virtue of goals scored, thanks to a convincing 3-0 win over Hindustan Aeronautics. However the 2009 champions have played one game more than Salgaocar, and three more than East Bengal and Dempo, both of whom sit just three points shy of the pinnacle.
Big game: The visit of Churchill Brothers to relegation haunted Hindustan Aeronautics was crucial to both teams for differing reasons. Churchill secured maximum points in a one-sided contest to move top of the standings, while the home side were left three points away from safety at the other end of the table.
Headline-grabber: A double from prolific Nigerian striker Chidi Edeh helped Mohun Bagan hold leaders Salgaocar to a share of the points. The point consolidates sixth for the Kolkata-based side in what has been a modest season for one of the league’s elite.
China PR’s Super League: Guangzhou hit the summit
Newly-promoted Guangzhou Yiyao continued their stunning run, recording their fourth win from six matches in overcoming hosts Shenzhen Ruby by a solitary goal. The victory lifted them to the summit of the 16-strong league, a point clear of Hangzhou Greentown, who were held to a goalless draw by Henan Construction. Also sharing second are Beijing Guoan, who came away with a 3-0 drubbing of Chengdu Blades, while Liaoning Whowin defeated Dalian Shide by an identical scoreline to move fourth.
Big game: The much-anticipated contest between Tianjin Teda and Shaanxi Chanba ended in a 2-2 stalemate, with the point leaving the pair ninth and fifth respectively. In what turned out to be a scrappy opening half, the visitors went ahead courtesy of a spot-kick by Chinese international striker Qu Bo on 37 minutes, before Wu Weian drew the hosts level just before the break. Luciano Olguin put Tianjin in the lead with 15 minutes remaining, but Shaanxi rallied to equalise four minutes later with Dino Djulbic’s header sealing a point.
Headline-grabber: After suffering an erratic opening to their season, which included a 3-1 home defeat to Hangzhou, Beijing Guoan have quickly pushed aside any lingering disappointment to score a hat-trick of 3-0 victories. The impressive run began with a defeat of eight-time champions Dalian Shide at home and, after trouncing hosts Nanchang Hengyuan, the capital side went on to rout Chengdu Blades on Sunday.
In Korea Republic, former Asian champions Jeonbuk Motors claimed top spot thanks to a lone Kim Dong-Chan strike which secured a 1-0 defeat of Ulsan Horang-I on Saturday. Frontrunners Pohang Steelers were unable to regain their status at the summit after falling 2-1 at Busan I´Park a day later. The highlight of the weekend was a much-needed win for reigning champions FC Seoul, who overcame third-placed Sangju Sangmu Phoenix 4-3 thanks to a Dejan Damjanovic hat-trick.
Leaders Tampines Rovers spurned the opportunity to take a stranglehold in Singapore after being held 1-1 at home by Gombak United. A late equaliser from Kwon Jin-Sung cancelled out Aleksandar Duric’s first-half strike and left Tampines four points clear of Home United, who defeated Balestier Khalsa 5-2 in midweek. The evergreen Duric remains well clear at the top of the goalscorers charts with 11 goals to his name, four more than his nearest challenger.
Just past the halfway point in Malaysia, Kelantan have hung onto top spot on goal difference ahead of Selangor, with Terengganu a further point adrift. Kelantan were 2-0 home victors over Kedah, while Selangor edged the visiting Johor FC 3-2.