Japanese duo's five-star form
© AFP

Defending champions Gamba Osaka and fellow J.League outfit Kawasaki Frontale went on a goal spree as they cruised towards the last 16 of the AFC Champions League.

Gamba are the only team to have gathered maximum points from their three games so far after beating Indonesian side Sriwijaya 5-0 in Group F. Equally dominant were Kawasaki, who defeated Central Coast Mariners by the same score in Australia.

Gamba look certain to make the knockout rounds with Chinese champions Shandong Luneng shaping up as favourites to join them after beating FC Seoul 2-0 to sit on six points to Seoul's three. In Kawasaki's group, Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers eased past China's Tianjin Teda 1-0 with a 66th-minute goal from Kim Jae-Sung to leave them on five points behind the J.League team's seven. The Mariners have two points and Tianjin one.

Gamba dominated from the outset against a defensive Sriwijaya and spent most of the match controlling the game from the Indonesian end of the pitch. Brazilian striker Leandro scored a brace while Satoshi Yamaguchi and second-half substitute Michihiro Yasuda also got in on the act with an own goal by Ambrizal completing the scoring. Sriwijaya have now conceded 14 goals during their Champions League debut. 

While the Mariners have let in fewer than their Indonesian neighbours, they were equally disappointing, with Kawasaki leading 3-0 after 37 minutes. The Japanese team's neat passing and movement off the ball was a joy to behold and their forward line of North Korean international Chong Tese and Brazilians Vitor Junior and Juninho proved irrepressible.

Tese opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a near-post header and Kawasaki doubled their lead when Hiroyuki Taniguchi scored off Juninho's corner in the 22nd minute. They made it 3-0 when Juninho's shot was deflected by defender Nigel Boogaard into the net just before half-time.

Any hope of a Mariners' revival was squashed soon after the restart when captain Kengo Nakamura rifled home a left-foot volley and Brazilian substitute Renatinho made it five. In Jinan, Shandong gave their hopes of reaching the last 16 a major boost by winning a lively encounter with Seoul FC.

Shandong, who have been beset with injuries, had the better chances in the first-half but were unable to score with the goals finally coming from Lu Zheng on 55 minutes and Han Peng 17 minutes from time. In the west side of the draw, Uzbek powerhouse Bunyodkor, last year's semi-finalists, take on 2007 runners-up Sepahan of Iran.

Dominant Saudis
Saudi Arabian outfit Ettifaq went top of Group D with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Emirati side Al Shabab Al Arabi as the victors Romanian coach Ioan Andone's bold decision to play four strikers came off brilliantly. A brace apiece from Ghanaian Prince Tagoe and Saleh Bashir saw them ease home over Al Shabab Al Arabi, who are bottom of the table three points adrift of their opponents.

"Our four strikers were the difference in the game," said Andone. "I'd noticed that our opponents had a slow backline so that was the obvious way to go. The next match, however, in Dubai will be crucial." The other match saw Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor, last year's semi-finalists, draw 2-2 at home to 2007 runners-up Sepahan of Iran.

In Group B action, Sepahan's domestic rivals and Iranian champions Piroozi won 3-1 at home to Qatari champions Al Gharafa at the 100,000-capacity Azadi Stadium, killing off the game with all their goals coming within the first 50 minutes. The other match in the group saw a bad night for Emirates side Sharjah as they lost 3-1 at home to Saudi outfit Al Shabab.

The visitors came back strongly after going 1-0 down after 12 minutes to score three times with Marcelo Camacho scoring their third in the 49th minute. Sharjah coach Tom Oliveira conceded that his side would not have deserved the three points - though they badly needed them as they are now pointless after three games. "Shabab played like machines; they showed great movement and passing techniques. They were much better than us," admitted the Portuguese coach.