A goal-laden quarter-final stage concluded with four different countries represented and the strong possibility that a new name will be etched onto the trophy come November, with Al Ittihad the only previous winner remaining. Joining the Saudi giants are Qatar's Umm Salal, Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers and Japan's Nagoya Grampus.
Umm Salal stunned hosts FC Seoul with a 1-1 draw in Korea to win 4-3 on aggregate, with the Qatari's now set to face Pohang, who pulled off an even bigger coup with a stunning 5-4 win on aggregate against Bunyodkor following a 4-1 extra-time win on the night.
The other semi-final will see Nagoya, who scored a late winner against compatriots Kawasaki Frontale for a 4-3 aggregate scoreline, meeting Al Ittihad who cruised past Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor 4-0 and 5-1 on aggregate. FIFA.com reviews all the action as Asia's finest compete for continental glory.
The big game
Nagoya Grampus 3-1 (4-3 agg) Kawasaki Frontale
With the match headed for extra time Australian striker Josh Kennedy scored from close-range to give the home side a famous win. A high-tempo Japanese derby proved a worthy occasion with end-to-end action despite persistent rain and a soggy surface. Nagoya, trailing with a 2-1 away deficit from the first leg, levelled the aggregate score when Yoshizumi Ogawa scored a stunning goal after dribbling from deep and firing into the top-corner from 25 metres. Defender Maya Yoshida extended the lead on the night, with DPR Korea striker Chong Tese levelling on aggregate, before Kennedy's late goal allowed Nagoya the opportunity to carry Japan's hopes of winning a third consecutive Asian crown.
Pohang Steelers 4-1 (5-4 agg) Bunyodkor
Despite lofty ambitions highly credentialed Uzbek giants Bunyodkor fell one step short of last year's AFC Champions League semi-final appearance, and, despite taking a 3-1 lead into the second leg, they fell to an extra-time winner from Stevica Ristic to lose on aggregate by the odd goal in nine. The Korean side performed heroically to take the lead through Kim Jae-Sung and then a Denilson brace, only for Victor Karpenko to send the match into extra time with a 90th-minute goal. Luiz Felipe Scolari's side showed little of the usual sparkle at the Steelyard with FIFA World Cup™-winner Rivaldo well-shackled.
Qatar's Umm Salal continued their stunning run with a 4-3 defeat of Korean league leaders FC Seoul to end local hopes of an all-Korean semi-final. The visitors, who had a 3-2 first-leg advantage, opened the scoring early on through Aziz Ben Askar with Dejan Damjanovic equalising almost immediately.
Two-time champions Al Ittihad eased past Pakhtakor 4-0 for a 5-1 aggregate scoreline making for a disappointing night for Uzbekistan. Goals from Sultan Al Nemri, Amine Chermiti, Hicham Aboucherouane and captain Mohammed Noor sealing an emphatic win.
Pohang Steelers' Brazilian forward Denilson maintained an impressive goals-per-game return in this year's competition with a brace to help his side to a famous win over Uzbek favourites Bunyodkor. The 33-year-old firstly headed home from a corner and then calmly completed a Pohang counterattack to help set up a remarkable come-from-behind win.
The numbers game
29 - The numbers of goals scored across the eight quarter-final matches.
What they said
"We are the smallest club left in the AFC Champions League and I think we can be a role model for others. Even though we are not a big team, we can get big results." Umm Salal coach Gerard Gili.
2009 AFC Champions League quarter-final first-leg fixtures:
FC Seoul (Korea Republic) v Umm Salal (Qatar) - 1-1 (3-4 agg)
Nagoya Grampus (Japan) v Kawasaki Frontale (Japan) - 3-1 (4-3)
Pohang Steelers (Korea Republic) v Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan) - 4-1 (5-4)
Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia) v Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) - 4-0 (5-1)