It was a good day for teams from Uzbekistan, but sides from United Arab Emirates, Iran and Saudi Arabia enjoyed mixed fortunes on matchday four of the AFC Champions League's group stage.
Group A - Pakhtakor on fire in Tehran
Having recently secured their seventh successive domestic title, Pakhtakor are fast shrugging off their tag of uneasy travellers in Asia by inching closer to winning Group A and claiming a place in the quarter-finals. Three quick-fire goals early in the second half did for Iran's Foolad (3-1), the team they had defeated 2-0 in Tashkent a fortnight ago. Renat Bayramov (47), Vladislav Kiryan (49) and.Komoloddin Tadjiev (57) grabbed the goals after Meysam Soleimani (35) had given the home side a first-half lead.
They now lead the group by two points over Al Qadisiya, whom they face at their home fortress on the final matchday. A goal from Nawaf Al Mutairi seven minutes from time gave the Kuwaitis a 1-0 win over Syria's Al Itithad, who lie bottom of the table after recording just two draws.
Group B - Mash'al gain revenge
Uzbekistan's other representatives Mash'al also pulled off a big win, this time at home to Al Hilal 2-1. Having been thumped in Saudi Arabia 5-0 two weeks before, the team from Karshi faced similar if not the same adversaries - many of Hilal's players were on international duty - bravely and Botir Koraev struck five minutes into the second half with Zafar Kholmurodov doubling the lead with eight minutes to go. The Riyadh giants halved the deficit with a last-minute strike but only after the locals had had two players dismissed. They remain three points behind Al Ain at the top after the former winners came back from behind to defeat Al Mina'a at home. Brazilian Kelly and Ivorian Diaky grabbed the goals.
Group C - Saba charge, Karama stay positive
Saba Battery produced a stunning performance in Abu Dhabi to dent Al Wahda's hopes of topping the group. Goals from Bosnian striker Alen Avdic (28) and Saeid Bagi (35) gave the Iranians an early advantage. Abdulraheem Jumaa struck for Wahda (39) but Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh (48) and Bagi (52) increased the lead after the break. Fahed Masoud (85) reduced the deficit in the 85th minute. The Iranian side stay two points behind surprise leaders Al Karama. The Syrian side needed late goals from Turkmani (2) and Abdulqader Refai to down Al Gharafa of Qatar.
Group D - Sadd happy at the top
Qatar's Al Sadd stayed in pole position after a convincing 3-0 win over Iraq's Al Kuwa Al Jawiya in Doha. A goal midway through the first half from Jafal Al Kuwari (22) got things going before late strikes from Felipe (83) and Magid Mohammed (90) sealed the victory. They are being hard chased by Al Shabab, who defeated Al Arabi 2-0 thanks to goals from Nassir Al Shamrani and Godwin Attram, but with a three-point advantage at the top and home territory for their clash next week, Al Sadd are firm favourites to reach the quarter-finals for a second successive year.
Group E - Dalian down Gamba
The most competitive of the groups, perhaps, is certainly turning into the most interesting. After being crushed 3-0 two weeks ago, China's Dalian Shide hit back against J-League champions Gamba Osaka 2-0 thanks to goals from Zou Jie (19) and Zhang Yaokun (48). However, their 3-0 reversal to the same side two weeks ago coupled with Gamba's superior goal difference may mean the size of the win will prove insufficient unless the Chinese champions can take something back from Korea. Jeonbuk Motors recorded another slim win (1-0) against Vietnam's Da Nang to move joint top with Dalian on 9 points with Gamba three points adrift.
There were no games played in groups F and G.