A late winner from midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake gave Cerezo Osaka a 4-3 win over Korea Republic's Jeonbuk Motors in the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old netted a brace as Cerezo, who stormed back to record an extraordinary 5-4 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J.League on Saturday, came from behind three times to beat Jeonbuk in a thrilling game in Osaka.
In South Korea, Suwon Bluewings, who dumped Japanese champions Nagoya Grampus out in the Round of 16, were held to a 1-1 draw by Zob Ahan of Iran, the surprise finalists in last year's competition.
Cerezo secured their place in the quarters after finishing second to Jeonbuk in the group stages before seeing off city rivals Gamba 1-0 in the Round of 16. Wednesday's match was the third time the sides have met in this year's tournament, and 2006 champions Jeonbuk took the lead three times through a Lee Dong-Gook double and a goal from Cho Sung-Hwan.
But Cerezo fought back each time, equalising through Ryuji Bando, Kiyotake and Kim Bo-Kyung's penalty before Kiyotake fired home the winner from a corner nine minutes from time.
Cerezo boss Levir Culpi said he was happy with the win, but had a warning for fans. "I think people who come to watch Cerezo from now on need to get their hearts checked first," he said, in comments reported by Kyodo news agency. "We were able to show what a technically good side we are against a strong South Korean team."
Saudi big guns fire
The two sides meet for the second leg in a week's time, with a semi-final spot against either Al Ittihad or FC Seoul up for grabs. The Saudi giants, who sacked their coach just days before their Round of 16 game, beat K-League champions Seoul 3-1 in Jeddah, their goals coming from Mohammed Noor, Osama Al Harbi, and Geraldo Wendel in the final minute.
Suwon had the best of the early exchanges against Zob Ahan but were caught by a counter attack early in the second half as the Iranians streamed upfield and forward Mohammad Ghazi converted the simplest of chances from six yards. A volley from Park Hyun-Beom on 66 minutes levelled the tie at Suwon World Cup Stadium and the midfielder should have given his side the lead seven minutes later but headed wide with the whole goal to aim at.
Zob Ahan will be the happier of the two sides as Suwon travel to Iran for the second leg next week knowing they must score to have any chance of progressing.
The final quarter of the night was an all Middle East affair between Sepahan, also from Iran, and Qatar’s Al Sadd, with Sepahan edging the first leg in Fooladshahr 1-0, Omid Ebrahimi producing the decisive goal in the 12th minute.
Asia's premier club competition has been dominated by teams from Korea Republic and Japan in recent years, with no Middle Eastern winner since Al Ittihad completed back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005. While Japanese sides have struggled this year - Cerezo are the last side keeping the country's hopes alive - South Korean sides have again prospered.