Former champs storm through in Asia
© AFP

The AFC Champions League last-eight line-up is complete with five former champions, last year’s runners-up FC Seoul, debutants Western Sydney Wanderers and Al Hilal all making it through. Three teams edged through on away goals, while at the other end of the scale defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande capitalised on their big first-leg win to progress despite surprisingly losing at home.

Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia have maintained their recent dominance in the continent’s East and West Zones and each boast two sides in the quarter-finals. China PR, Australia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates have sole representatives in the last eight, while the interest for Iran and Japan clubs has ended.

The match
Foolad 2-2 Al Sadd
Despite a late red card former winners Al Sadd stormed into the last eight to seal progression with a 2-2 draw at Foolad following a goalless draw in the first leg. With a precious away point from the first match, the Iranian hosts entered the home game confident of prolonging their impressive campaign with a victory. However, a quickfire two-goal salvo inside the opening half-hour put the visitors firmly in the driving seat. Although Chimba twice struck in the second half to draw the scoreline level, the Qataris held on and scraped through on away goals.

The match was tipped in favour of the visitors early on when Nadir Belhadj caught the Foolad goalkeeper out with a long-distance effort on 16 minutes. The home side's woes were compounded on the half-hour mark, with Khalfan Ibrahim firing home off Yusef Ahmed's cross to double Al Sadd's lead. Foolad's hopes were ignited when Chimba pulled one back with a spot-kick on 77 minutes. With Al Sadd reduced to ten men following defender Abdelkarim Hassan's dismissal, the Iranian champions capitalised on their numerical advantage with the Brazilian striker equalising with his second three minutes from time. Omid Khaledi headed against the woodwork in stoppage time to the home supporter's disappointment as Foolad saw their campaign end in heart-breaking fashion.

The surprise
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Tournament debutants Western Sydney Wanderers continued their impressive run in this competition by defeating Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 at home to reach the continental quarter-finals in just the second year since being founded. The result, coupled with their 3-1 first leg loss, saw the two sides level by 3-3 on aggregate but it was the A-League runners-up that stormed through on away goals. Boasting a two-goal advantage the Japanese champions looked content to sit on the lead while the hosts patiently sought a chink in the Japanese champions’ armour.

The breakthrough came ten minutes after the restart when Shannon Cole capitalised on a half-clearance to cut the deficit. Wanderers' first-leg goal-scorer Tomi Juric and then Kwabena Appiah were sent on in the closing stages as the hosts went in desperate search of an aggregate equaliser. Their efforts paid off when another defensive error ended up with Brendon Santalab sealing the victory for the hosts five minutes from time, with both goals set up by departing crowd favourite Shinji Ono.

The other attractions
A second 2-1 win against Al Jazira at home saw Al Ain seal their place in the last eight by a comfortable 4-2 aggregate scoreline. Asamoah Gyan was again the hosts' hero with a second-half brace, which enabled Al Ain to come from a goal down to secure back-to-back triumphs. Gyan's two strikes extended his scoring-tally to ten just three shy of the tournament's all-time record of 13.

Al Ittihad progressed in emphatic fashion by following up their 1-0 first leg win at home with a 3-1 victory at Al Shabab. Mukhtar Fallatah put the visitors ahead on eight minutes with his sixth goal of the campaign, before teenage striker Fahad Al Muwallad completed a brace in the closing stages, sandwiched between a Abdulmajeed Al Ruwaili effort.

Also cruising to the quarter-finals were fellow Saudi League giants Al Hilal, who added a 3-0 home triumph to their 1-0 first leg win. Captain Yasser Al Qahtani opened the scoring on 20 minutes and Nassir Al Shamrani doubled the advantage with his seventh goal in the second half, before Salem Al Dawsari sealed their progression.

Pohang Steelers sealed their return to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010, with a sixth-minute strike from Kim Seungdae handing them a 1-0 home win to progress with a convincing 3-1 aggregate victory. The result sees Pohang maintain their unbeaten run in this campaign underlining the 2009 winners’ status as one of the favourites for this year’s crown.

Guangzhou Evergrande capitalised on their big 5-1 win at Cerezo Osaka a week earlier to make it through 5-2 on aggregate, despite losing by a solitary goal at home. In what had been anticipated as another one-sided game in favour of Guangzhou, Marcello Lippi's defending champions were made to sweat throughout with Liao Lisheng putting through his own net bringing the hosts' home winning-streak to an abrupt end.

Elsewhere, FC Seoul reached the last eight for a fourth time in six years despite losing 2-1 at home against Kawasaki Frontale. Taking heart from their 3-2 first-leg victory, the hosts opened brightly when Sergio Escudero extended the advantage with an early strike. Yu Kobayashi equalised for the visitors on the half-hour, before Yasuhito Morishima put the game on a knife's edge with a stoppage-time effort. But the decisive third goal didn't come and with the two sides locked at a 4-4 aggregate scoreline, it was the K League side that made it through on away goals.

The player
Shinji Ono couldn’t have had a better farewell match for Western Sydney Wanderers, with the Japanese midfielder providing the assist for both goals as his side became only the second A-League club behind Adelaide United to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. Having seen a first-half effort flash just wide, the former AFC Player of the Year twice wreaked havoc in Sanfrecce’s penalty area with his smart passes yielding goals.

The stat
3
- Three sides went through on away goals while three teams progressed at the expenses of domestic rivals.

What they said
"Going to the quarter-final for the first time since 2010 makes me feel excited. When we find out who's going to be our opponent, I will feel nervous again," Pohang Steelers coach Hwang Sunhong.

The results
13 & 14 May
Al Shabab 1-3 Al Ittihad
Al Ain 2-1 Al Jazira
Foolad 2-2 Al Sadd
Al Hilal 3-0 Bunyodkor
Pohang Steelers 1-0 Jeonbuk Motors
Guangzhou Evergrande 0-1 Cerezo Osaka
FC Seoul 1-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima