Teams from West Asia may have claimed three of the past five AFC Champions League titles, but a fourth crown has eluded the Gulf sides this year, as their three representatives crashed out in Wednesday's quarter-final second leg encounters.
Iran's Saipa suffered a 5-1 demolition at the hands of a rampant Bunyodkor (previously known as Kuruvchi), while their two fellow westerners Al Qadisia and Al Karama followed suit, losing 2-0 to defending champions Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka respectively. Elsewhere, a slender 1-0 win was enough for Australia's Adelaide United to see off Kashima Antlers of Japan and advance to the semi-finals, where they will battle it out with Bunyodkor.
AFC Champions League quarter-finals, second leg results:
Wednesday 24 September
Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan) 5-1 Saipa (Iran)
Adelaide United (Australia) 1-0 Kashima Antlers (Japan)
Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan) 2-0 Al Qadsia (Kuwait)
Gamba Osaka (Japan) 2-0 Al Karama (Syria)
Game of the day
Adelaide United 1-0 Kashima Antlers
Needing just a goalless draw to progress, hosts Adelaide United rounded off their quarter-final campaign with an exciting victory over Kashima Antlers to eliminate the Japanese champions 2-1 on aggregate. Adelaide's towering defender Robbie Cornthwaite, who scored an own goal to gift the Japanese a 1-1 draw in the first leg, went from zero to hero by heading home the match-winning goal 17 minutes from time. The game was a breathless, end-to-end affair in which both sides squandered several good chances, but the breakthrough came when Cornthwaite headed home a cross from Brazilian Cassio to seal what was afterwards described as an "incredible achievement" by Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar.
Surprise of the day
Bunyodkor 5-1 Saipa
A 5-1 victory over Saipa to seal Bunyodkor's place in the last four was the perfect way for Bunyodkor's Mirdjalal Kasimov to wave goodbye to his faithful fans, before leaving to take up the national team post. And the former Uzbekistan captain had the team's South American trio to thank for the thumping victory.
Playing in front of their vociferous home fans in Tashkent, Bunyodkor showed the visitors no mercy as they went three goals up before the break. Jose Luis Villanueva headed the home side ahead after only nine minutes, and the Chilean striker doubled the lead from the penalty spot soon afterwards. Brazilian star Rivaldo then made it 3-0 by converting another penalty just before the break, to put the result beyond doubt. Saber Mirghorbani pulled one back for Saipa two minutes into the second half, but only five minutes later the impressive Villanueva restored their three-goal advantage by completing his hat-trick, before Brazilian defender Luizao capped a memorable win with a fifth goal on 68 minutes.
Urawa Reds 2-0 Al Qadsia
Despite their shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Al Qadsia in the opening match, Urawa redeemed their credentials by comfortably seeing off their Kuwaiti rivals at home. Midfielder Takahito Soma put the Reds ahead after 31 minutes, before defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka shot from a tight angle nine minutes after the interval to earn a deserved victory for the defending champions.
Gamba Osaka 2-0 Al Karama
Two late goals within two minutes saw Gamba Osaka emerge 2-0 winners over Al Karama, to win the tie 4-1 on aggregate. In a game largely dominated by Gamba, the home side could have taken the lead earlier, with shots from both Shinichi Terada and Ryuji Bando denied by the woodwork. With the game still scoreless after 83 minutes, Gamba took the lead through Masato Yamazaki, before the substitute set up Brazilian teammate Roni for the second only two minutes later.
The numbers game
2 - The number of goals that Brazilian star Rivaldo has scored in his first two Champions League appearances for Bunyodkor.
What they said
"I'm delighted that we played great football to reach the semi-finals. Before this match I wasn't thinking about the national team at all, but from now on I am fully concentrated on the national team job," Mirdjalal Kasimov, former Bunyodkor head coach who has recently been appointed coach of Uzbekistan