Defending champions Urawa Red Diamonds, plus Adelaide United, Gamba Osaka and Kuruvchi powered past tough opposition to book their places in the AFC Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.
Japan are guaranteed a team in the final of Asia's top club competition with Gamba meeting J. League rivals Urawa in the two-legged showdown next month. Adelaide, who beat Kashima Antlers 1-0 at home for a 2-1 aggregate victory will take on Uzbekistan's Kuruvchi, who steamrollered past Saipa 5-1.
Urawa overturned a 3-2 first leg defecit against Kuwait's Al Qadsiya to march into the last four thanks to a spectacular strike from Takahito Soma and another by Marcus Tulio Tanaka handing them a 2-0 home triumph and a 4-3 aggregate win. Late goals by substitute Masato Yamazaki and Brazilian striker Roni were enough to guarantee Gamba their spot, earning them a 2-0 win and 4-1 aggregate victory over Syria's Al Karama.
Urawa on top
Urawa knew they had to dig deep to keep alive their dream of a successful title defence and the chance of playing in the FIFA Club World Cup on home soil in December against the likes of Manchester United. They did so in emphatic fashion, with Gert Engels' side turning in an assured display. Soma's left-foot volley from the edge of the area after 31 minutes gave them a deserved lead before Tulio doubled the advantage nine minutes into the second half when he hammered home from a tight angle to put the game beyond Al Qadsiya.
In Osaka, Gamba made the most of their 2-1 first leg advantage against the Syrian champions, dominating with Shinichi Terada and Ryuji Bando hitting the frame of the Al Karama goal in the first half. However, the game remained goalless until Yamazaki fired home from a narrow angle after 83 minutes and then set up Roni two minutes later to send Gamba through.
Australia ensured they have a team in the semi-finals for the first time after Adelaide defender Robert Cornthwaite made amends for a first-leg own goal to put his side into the sharp end of the tournament. His 73rd-minute header did the damage against Kashima, Japan's most decorated club team with five J.League titles. Only last week Cornthwaite was the villain when he sliced a clearance into his own net in a 1-1 draw in Kashima after Adelaide led early. But the big defender was the home-town hero in the return match as his diving header off a cross from Brazilian left-back Cassio went in off Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata for the winner in a lively encounter.
Adelaide's reward is a clash with Kuruvchi who had their South American stars to thank for their emphatic home victory over Saipa following a 2-2 first leg draw. Chilean striker Jose Luis Villanueva scored a hat-trick while Brazilian midfielder Rivaldo and his countryman, defender Luizao, sealed the win.