This week’s review of club football across Asia and Oceania takes in Australia, where erratic results are making for midtable congestion, and Qatar, where a two-horse race is developing as the finish line slowly moves into view.
Further afield, FIFA.com reflects on cup action in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, while intriguing battles continue to develop in India and New Zealand.
Australia’s A-League: Inconsistency causes logjam
Consistently inconsistent would be an appropriate description for many A-League clubs this season, with only two teams separated from the pack and book-ending either of the table. Central Coast Mariners hold a ten-point lead, despite seeing their match against Gold Coast United postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at the home of the league's bottom club, who are now six points adrift. In between the pair, eight teams are separated by just ten points, with the league approaching the final third of the season. Former leaders Brisbane Roar suffered yet another defeat as their poor form continued. This time the Roar allowed Newcastle Jets to secure their first away win of the season with a 1-0 triumph in Brisbane.
Big game: Wellington Phoenix assumed second spot on the ladder with a 3-1 win over Melbourne Heart. Evergreen Barbados striker Paul Ifill continues to be handful at 32, as shown by a classy double in this match.
Headline-grabber: Along with Wellington and leaders Central Coast, Perth Glory are the league’s form side, having now gone seven matches undefeated after a comfortable 3-0 win at Adelaide United. An Old Firm partnership reaped rewards in Australia’s remote western city, with one-time Celtic midfielder Liam Miller bagging his first for the Glory, who have former Rangers stalwart Ian Ferguson at the helm.
Qatar's Stars League: Al Sadd maintain pole position
With eight rounds remaining, the title race continues to gather pace as Al Sadd maintained their place at the summit with a hard-fought 3-2 victory against struggling Al Ahli. Third-placed Al Jaish missed the chance to cut the gap on the frontrunners as they lost to Lekhwiya by an identical scoreline. The results keep Al Sadd one point clear of Lekhwiya, and leave Jaish seven points behind.
Big game: Al Ahli entered the home game seeking just their fourth win of the campaign but it was visiting Al Sadd that got off to a perfect start, with goals from Khalfan Ibrahim, Majid Mohammed and Yousef Ahmad giving them a comfortable 3-0 lead within 50 minutes. Although Hicham Aboucherouane and Alain Dioko struck late to put the game on edge, Al Sadd kept their cool to secure all three points.
Headline-grabber: It was a forgettable weekend for fourth-placed Al Rayyan, who suffered their second defeat with a 1-0 loss to Al Khor at home. Julio Cesar scored the only goal for the visitors on the hour-mark, before the home side’s misery was compounded with defender Daniel Goumou sent off after two yellow cards.
Dempo retained their three-point lead in India despite being held to an entertaining goalless draw in the Goa derby by Salgaocar. The result leaves Salgaocar unbeaten in eight matches, six of which they have won. East Bengal were held 1-1 at fourth-placed Churchill Brothers, leaving Mohun Bagan as the only team near the top to claim three points. The Kolkata giants moved to within seven points of the summit with a 2-0 victory over Indian Arrows.
In Saudi Arabia, holders Al Hilal and Ettifaq set up a final meeting in this season's Crown Prince Cup after the two sides emerged victorious from their respective semi-finals. Holders Al Hilal beat Al Ittihad 2-0, while Ettifaq booked their place after edging Al Ahli 2-1 courtesy of a stoppage-time penalty by Argentinian forward Sebastian Tagliabue. A win in the final will see Al Hilal crowned for a record fifth successive time.
There were surprises in United Arab Emirates' Etisalat Cup, with Diego Maradona's Al Wasl condemned to second from bottom in Group A after conceding three unanswered goals against Dubai, while heavyweights Al Ain were thrashed by section leaders Al Jazira 4-0. In Group B, Al Shabab cemented their place at the top with a 3-0 drubbing of Al Sharjah and hold a four-point lead over Ajman, who fought out a 1-1 draw against Al Nasr.
A four-way tussle is developing in New Zealand, where wins for Canterbury United and Waitakere United slashed Auckland City's lead to just two points. Rapidly improving Team Wellington held the pacesetters to a 1-1 draw that leaves the men from the capital sitting four points off top spot in fourth. Canterbury impressed in overpowering Waikato FC 3-0, while Waitakere did likewise in cruising past Otago 5-0, with Fiji striker Roy Krishna scoring a treble.