The AFC Champions League last sixteen is complete, with three Saudi and two Japanese sides progressing from the 2011 AFC Champions League Matchday 6. Al Hilal, Al Nassr and Al Shabab all achieved the results they needed to join compatriots Al Ittihad in the next round, while Osaka duo, Gamba and Cerezo, made it through with victories over China PR’s Tianjin Teda and Shandong Luneng respectively.
The results leave Japan and Saudi Arabia the most successful nations following the group phase, with all of their eight representatives through to the knockout stage. Korea Republic boasts a trio of clubs in the round of 16, with only Jeju United failing to progress. Iran have a formidable duo in the shape of two former runners-up Sepahan and Zob Ahan while China, Qatar and Uzbekistan each have one team through. FIFA.com reviews a thrilling concluding round.
The big game
Al Hilal 2-0 Al Gharafa
Yasser Al Qahtani 47, Ahmed Al Fraidi 82
Al Gharafa entered the meeting needing a victory by two clear goals to progress but it was Al Hilal that emerged 2-0 victors to claim Group A's second qualifying spot. The Qataris were reduced to few chances throughout with their marksman Younis Mahmoud closely marked, while at the opposite end, Yasser Al Qahtani continued his recent prolific form, scoring the opener and setting up another as his side rounded off the group campaign in fashion.
The Saudi international came close to opening the scoring early on when he flashed a header just wide, before seeing an acrobatic overhead kick miss the target. The goal he had wanted finally came two minutes after the interval, when he slotted home off Majed Al Marshadi's corner-kick. The scorer then turned provider when he picked up a long ball and smartly cut it back to Al Fraidi, who sealed the triumph with a clinical finish.
Cerezo Osaka 4-0 Shandong Luneng
Rodrigo Pimpao 39, Hiroshi Kiyotake 47, Takashi Inui 73, Shu Kurata 81
Languishing fourth from bottom in the J.League with only three goals scored from four matches, Cerezo are hardly known for their firepower. However, the Japanese debutants stunned even their own supporters as they fired four unanswered goals past Shandong to qualify from Group G behind Jeonbuk Motors. The forgettable defeat for the visitors saw the under-crisis Shandong fail to progress beyond the group stage for a third successive time.
Facing a must-win scenario the Chinese went forward from the outset, but it was the hosts that took the lead when Rodrigo latched onto a rebound to open the scoring six minutes from the break. Cheered on by the home crowd, the Japanese doubled the lead courtesy of Hiroshi Kiyotake shortly after the interval, before Takashi Inui crushed the rivals' hopes. Substitute midfielder Kurata put the icing on the cake when he cut into the area to rifle home.
In Group B, Al Nassr clinched second spot despite losing 2-1 at Esteghlal. Bader Al Mutwa put the Saudi visitors ahead on the hour-mark, before the Iranians rallied to win thanks to goals by Farhad Majidi and Hawar Mulla Mohammed. Although the comeback victory pull Esteghlal level with Al Nasr on points, the latter narrowly edged through on goal difference.
Needing a point to qualify from Group D, Al Shabab put the contest for the section's remaining spot beyond doubt with a solitary-goal win against section leaders Zob Ahan. The result left the game between Emirates and Al Rayyan no more than an academic one, which the latter recorded their first win by prevailing 2-0.
In the Far East, a 2-0 home win over the already-qualified Tianjin Teda not only secured Gamba's qualification ahead of Jeju United and Melbourne Victory, but also saw them finish Group E as winners. Japan international midfielder Yasuhito Endo gave the hosts the much-needed lead through a sublimely-taken free-kick on 74 minutes, before substitute forward Takashi Usami settled the contest with a penalty in added time.
What they said
"Considering all those difficulties we suffered (switch of home ground following the earthquake), I think we can be given credit for our qualification for the round of 16 this time and the efforts from our players and our club staff members," Kashima Antlers coach Oswaldo Oliveira.
2011 AFC Champions League Matchday 6 results:
Tuesday 10 & Wednesday 11 May
Group A: Al Jazira 1-4 Sepahan, Al Hilal 2-0 Al Gharafa
Group B: Pakhtakor 1-1 Al Sadd, Esteghlal 2-1 Al Nassr
Group C: Al Ittihad 1-1 Bunyodkor, Al Wahda 2-0 Persepolis
Group D: Zob Ahan 0-1 Al Shabab, Al Rayyan 2-0 Emirates
Group E: Gamba Osaka 2-0 Tianjin Teda, Jeju United 1-1 Melbourne Victory
Group F: Al Ain 3-1 Nagoya Grampus, Hangzhou Greentown 1-1 FC Seoul
Group G: Jeonbuk Motors 6-0 Arema Indonesia, Cerezo Osaka 4-0 Shandong Luneng
Group H: Kashima Antlers 2-1 Sydney FC, Shanghai Shenhua 0-3 Suwon Bluewings