The line-up for the knockout stage of this year's AFC Champions League was completed on Matchday 6, with four teams advancing to join twelve sides that had already qualified for the final 16.
Suwon Bluewings reached the next round following a 3-1 home win over Armed Forces of Singapore, while Ulsan Hyundai lost what was effectively a play-off against Australia's Newcastle Jets by a solitary goal. Despite being held to a goalless draw at home by Al Arabi, Uzbek champions Bunyodkor maintained their slim margin over the UAE side to take Group D's second qualifying spot.
The most drama though was in Group F where Shandong Luneng, needed a win against the hitherto winless Indonesian hosts Sriwijaya to progress, however the Chinese threw away a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 and concede second place to FC Seoul, who pulled off a dramatic 2-1 away win against Gamba Osaka.
Saudi Arabia and Japan reinforced their credentials as all their four respective teams booked qualification. Hot on their heels were Korea Republic, with three of their four representatives through. Two Uzbek teams also booked progression, while clubs from Iran, Qatar and Australia each secured one spot in the knockout stage of the continental showpiece. China again had a miserable campaign, with no clubs from the world's most populous nation progressing beyond the group stage for a third consecutive year. Equally disappointing were UAE who saw all their four teams eliminated.
Game of the day
Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) 0-1 Newcastle Jets (AUS)
Lady Luck was shining on Newcastle Jets as the Australian side registered an unlikely 1-0 win against Ulsan Hyundai to progress at the expense of their Korean hosts. The Jets entered the game a point clear knowing a draw would be enough to see them through. The hosts needing all three points wreaked havoc from the outset and went close to opening the scoring on several occasions. However, the Jets took the lead partly against the run of play nine minutes before the break, when Jason Hoffman got his head onto the end of Fabio Vignaroli's cross. The home side threw everything forward after the interval, but were repeatedly denied by a combination of impressive young goalkeeper Ben Kennedy and the woodwork.
Surprise of the day
Sriwijaya (IDN) 4-2 Shandong Luneng (CHN)
Having fired five unanswered goals past Sriwijaya in the two sides' first-leg meeting, few would have bet against Shandong Luneng in the rematch. The Chinese champions faced a must-win to qualify but seemingly lacked the necessary determination and composure. The Indonesian hosts, despite playing only for pride, caught the visitors by surprise with their drive and thrust. After a sluggish start, Shandong showed flashes of movement which saw them two goals up just before the break. However, the home side continued to press hard and pulled one back through skipper Keith Gumbs eight minutes into the second half. Sriwijaya went on to dominate the rest the match with their Liberian midfielder Zah Krangar twice on target, before Muhammad Nasuha sealed a memorable 4-2 win - their first in as many games.
With the group winners rewarded with the advantage of playing the next round at home, the contention for the top place proved fierce. In the West, Saudi clubs were rampant with all finishing atop their respective groups. The most notable result being two-time winners Al Ittihad who secured a 7-0 thrashing of Qatari UMM-Salal.
In the continent's East, while Gamba Osaka and Nagoya Grampus had already won their respective groups, Kashima Antler held hosts Shanghai Shenhua for a point to ensure three group wins for J.League clubs. The only top place evading the Japanese was in Group H, where Korean Republic's Pohang Steelers overhauled Kawasaki Frontale to claim the section following their 2-0 away win.
What they said
"There was nothing more that I could have asked from my team as they fought with everything they had. It wasn't our best display of football but we were able to fight them off and achieve our goal," Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond.
2009 AFC Champions League Matchday 6 results:
Group A: Al Ahli (UAE) 3-5 Saba Battery (IRN); Al Hilal (KSA) 2- 0 Pakhtakor (UZB)
Group B: Persepolis (IRN) 1-0 Al Shabab (KSA)
Group C: Al Ittihad (KSA) 7-0 UMM-Salal (QAT); Al Jazira (UAE) 2-2 Esteghlal(IRN)
Group D: Sepahan (IRN) 3-0Ettifaq (KSA); Bunyodkor (UZB) 0-0 Al Arabi (UAE)
Group E: Beijing Guoan (CHN) 1-1 Nagoya Grampus (JPN); Ulsan Hyundai(KOR) 0-1 Newcastle Jets (AUS)
Group F: Sriwijaya (IDN) 4-2 Shandong Luneng (CHN); Gamba Osaka (JPN) 1-2 FC Seoul (KOR)
Group G: Suwon Bluewings (KOR) 3-1 Armed Forces (SIN); Shanghai Shenhua (CHN) 1- 1 Kashima Antlers (JPN)
Group H: Kawasaki Frontale (JPN) 0-2 Pohang Steelers (KOR); Central Coast (AUS) 0- 1 Tianjin Teda (CHN)