Old champions rise in Asia
© AFP

Traditional powerhouses of the AFC Champions League demonstrated their superiority by opening the Round of 16 brightly, with four of the five Asian champions emerging victorious in their respective first leg matches. Notably, Pohang Steelers scraped past Jeonbuk Motors 1-0 in a champions’ meeting, while holders Guangzhou Evergrande won comfortably 5-1 at Cerezo Osaka.

In the west zone, both inaugural champions Al Ain and two-time winners Al Ittihad clinched crucial victories at the expense of their respective compatriots Al Jazira and Al Shabab. FIFA.com reviews all the action from around Asia in the Round of 16.

The match
Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 FC Seoul

In a match between two teams renowned for resilience and tenacity, it was FC Seoul that had the final say courtesy of Yun Illok's stoppage-time strike. But the Korean visitors were forced to twice battle from behind to draw the scoreline level before the pacy winger capitalised on a defensive error to score the match-winner. The narrow victory, in a sense, came as the testament to coach Choi Yongsoo's counter-attacking tactics. While the Japanese hosts were dominant during the first-half, FC Seoul looked content to sit back and defend gallantly.

The game sprang into life shortly after the restart, when Yu Kobayashi popped up to head the hosts ahead. The conceded goal sparked immediate response from the visitors, who levelled within two minutes when Sergio Escudero's powerful shot ricocheted off the underside of the cross-bar to cross the line. Renato made it 2-1 in Kawasaki's favour with a twice-taken penalty on the hour mark, but defender Kim Chiwoo levelled matters with nine minutes left before Yun's decisive strike.

The surprise
Cerezo Osaka 1-5 Guangzhou Evergrande

While it was little surprise that Guangzhou Evergrande emerged victorious at Cerezo Osaka, it was the style in which they crushed their opponents that raised many eyebrows. Indeed, Marcello Lippi's reigning champions showed the hosts little mercy by running out 5-1 winners. In what proved to be an open game, the visitors took the lead midway through the first half when last year's top-marksman Muriqui latched onto Alessandro Diamanti's through ball to open his account this campaign. The hosts responded quickly, Forlan cutting the ball back to Ariajasuru Hasegawa to draw the scoreline level.

What seemed to be an evenly contested game was soon tipped in Guangzhou's favour, when a two-goal quick-fire from Elkeson gave the Chinese a 3-1 first-half lead. The Brazilian restored their lead by converting a penalty before getting his head on to Diamanti's free-kick. Substitute Gao Lin struck late to put the game beyond any doubt, and Muriqui rounded off Guangzhou's first away win this year with his second six minutes from time. The immense victory all but secured Guangzhou's progression to last eight ahead of next week's return match at home, with the result extending their undefeated record against Japanese opposition to nine matches out of ten.

The other attractions
Sanfrecce Hiroshima became the only winning J League side after dispatching Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 at home. After a goalless opening half, in-form Naoki Ishihara was twice on target to give the Japanese champions a 2-0 lead. Tomi Juric pulled one back for the Australians with a spot-kick on 78 minutes but Kosei Shibasaki struck in stoppage time to wrap up a spirited victory for the hosts.

The much anticipated champions' meeting between Jeonbuk and Pohang ended in the latters' favour, with Hwang Sunhong's visitors registering a 2-1 away triumph. All three goals came in the second half but the home side went ahead with Lee Jae-sung heading home Leonardo's inviting cross. The lead proved to be short lived, though, as it took Pohang just five minutes to draw level through Son Joonho. Go Mooyul would put the seal to the comeback victory with a left-footed strike.

In the west zone, Al Ittihad maintained their course to a third title by edging domestic rivals Al Shabab 1-0. After a scrappy first half that ended goalless, the two sides upped the tempo after the interval. Both teams came close to opening the scoring but it was not until 14 minutes from time that Mukhtar Fallatah scored the match-winning goal to give Al Ittihad a slender advantage heading into next week's return.

Also winning by the slightest of margins were Al Ain, who saw off Al Jazira 2-1 in the two sides' first Champions League meeting. Tournament top-striker Asamoah Gyan opened the scoring on 11 minutes with his eighth goal of the competition, before Omar Abdulrahman doubled the lead four minutes later. Musallem Fayez cut the deficit in half for Al Jazira with a second-half effort but the anticipated equaliser never materialised, leaving them with an uphill task in the second leg.

Elsewhere, Bunyodkor fell to Al Hilal 1-0 at home despite putting on a dominating performance. Oleg Zoteev came close to opening the scoring for the hosts when he rattled the post. Having survived the hosts' onslaught, however, Salem Al Dawsari scored the only goal of the match seven minutes from the break. Al Sadd and Foolad, meanwhile, played out a goalless draw which left the battle still very much open.

The player
If fans of Guangzhou were still left rueing the unexpected departure of last year's playmaker Dario Conca, they will now be hailing Alessandro Diamanti as his replacement. Having helped his side through the group phase with his goals and assists, the Italian had a hand in all their five goals as Guangzhou recorded their first away win in this campaign against Cerezo in style.

The stat
4
- A quartet of Asian champions prevailed in the opening legs while half of the eight matches ended in the visitors' favour.

What they said
"The defeat today is not fair because we conceded two quick goals in the first half and this affected us. (Though), our chances are still good as we will be playing with fighting spirit in the second leg and we believe that we can win and qualify for the quarter-finals," Al Jazira coach Walter Zenga

The results
6 & 7 May

Al Ittihad 1-0 Al Shabab
Al Jazira 1-2 Al Ain
Al Sadd 0-0 Foolad
Bunyodkor 0-1 Al Hilal
Jeonbuk Motors 1-2 Pohang Steelers
Cerezo Osaka 1-5 Guangzhou Evergrande
Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 FC Seoul
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-1 Western Sydney Wanderers