Adelaide United, Al Karama and Kashima Antlers completed the line-up for the AFC Champions League 2008 quarter-finals as the group stage reached its conclusion. The trio will join fellow pool winners Kuruvchi, Saipa, Al Qadisiya and Gamba Osaka, along with defending champions Urawa Red Diamonds, in the knockout phase, which will begin on 17 September.
The Antlers and Karama eased through yesterday, before United achieved the point they needed against Changchun Yatai to progress at their opponents' expense. Not that they were given an easy ride in the capital of China PR, where they were forced to weather a relentless storm to become the first Australian side to reach the last eight.
The match had been postponed until Thursday to honour the victims of the recent earthquake in Sichuan but when it got underway, there was no delay in Changchun's assault on victory. Forward Cao Tianbao squandered a couple of chances in the opening ten minutes, before Jorge Samuel Caballero's close-range header was turned around the post. Then, in the 33rd minute, Guillaume Dah Zadi rattled the upright to provoke gasps of despair from the home fans.
Adelaide fared better after the break, but as the half progressed they became trapped in their own half. Changchun threw everything forward in search of a win that would have guaranteed a Chinese presence in the quarter-finals, but United defended resiliently to keep the deadlock intact. " ," said United coach Aurelio Vidmar.
His Changchun counterpart, Gao Hongbo, attributed his side's failure to win to bad luck. "When Dah Zadi's shot was denied by the woodwork I had a feeling that we might be punished," he said. The team have tried their best to keep our hopes alive until this match, but I am sad about we failed at the last hurdle."
Kashima make history for Japan
Kashima guaranteed Japan three representatives in the quarter-finals for the first time by making light work of Nam Dinh. Having posted 28 goals in their previous five Group F matches, Oswaldo de Oliveira's charges scored four times without reply to finish three points above Beijing Guoan, who were defeated 5-3 by Krung Thai Bank. Yuzo Tashiro, Shinzoh Kohrogi, Masashi Motoyama and Danilo were on target for the J.League holders in Vietnam.
"We deserve our place in the quarter-finals and this is a meaningful prize for the players' efforts and professionalism. I hope we can maintain our inspiration for the knockout stage," said Kashima's Brazilian coach.
Al Karama needed only a point to bank top spot in Group C. As it transpired, they would have advanced even without their 0-0 draw against Al Ahly of Saudi Arabia; a consequence of second-placed Al Wahda's goalless stalemate with Al Saad.
"The most important thing now is that we are in the last eight," said Karama coach Said Kwid. "In the first half we attacked but we couldn't score, so in the second half we employed a more defensive formation. I asked the players to slow the game down and we didn't concede any goals."
AFC Champions League 2008, Matchday 6 results:
21 May, Wednesday
Group A: Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia) 3-0 Al Ittihad (Syria); Sepahan (Iran) 1-1 Kuruvchi (Uzbekistan)
Group B: Kuwait SC (Kuwait) 1-2 Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Iraq); Al Wasl (UAE) 1-1 Saipa (Iran)
Group C: Al Karama (Syria) 0-0 Al Ahly (Saudi Arabia); Al Sadd (Qatar) 0-0 Al Wahda (United Arab Emirates)
Group D: Arbil (Iraq) 4-2 Al Qadsia (Kuwait); Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) 2-0 Al Gharafa
Group E: Pohang Steelers (Korea Rpublic) 0-0 Binh Duong (Vietnam)
22 May, Thursday
Group E: Changchun Yatai (China) - Adelaide United (Australia)