There were varying degrees of tension across Asia as the last-eight jostled to keep their continental ambitions alive. Much of the headlines centred on the elimination of ambitious holders Guangzhou Evergrande who were edged out by A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers on away goals. It was similarly tight in the all-Korean affair between FC Seoul and Pohang Steelers with the former eventually winning though on penalties after two scoreless stalemates.
Things were much clearer in the west half of the continent, or at least they were for Al Ain who cruised past Al Ittihad with unexpected ease. Fellow Saudis Al Hilal, meanwhile, claimed a tough 1-0 aggregate triumph over Qatar’s Al Sadd.
The geographical split remains for the semi-finals, while east will meet west in the two-legged final. FIFA.com reviews all the quarter-final action.
Guangzhou Evergrande – Western Sydney Wanderers
Much of the focus was on a rocking Guangzhou Tianhe Sport Center as 40,000 fans filed in hoping to see the home side continue their domestic and continental dominance. A torrid first leg was edged 1-0 by Western Sydney Wanderers, and saw three Guangzhou Evergrande players suspended for the return with coach Marcello Lippi forced to watch from their stands.
The second leg proved to be a tale of two penalties with the highly regarded Elkeson blazing his first-half spot-kick into the burly forearm of goalkeeper Ante Covic, while Tomi Juric converted after the break to put the visitors two goals clear on aggregate. The home side, needing three goals to overhaul the visitors, continued to heap relentless pressure on the Wanderers goal. Italian Alessandro Diamanti, playing with the passion of a man possessed, pulled a goal back soon after Juric’s strike, but Guangzhou couldn’t find the net again until injury time through Elkeson. The Wanderers - founded only two years ago - becoming just the second Australian team after Adelaide United to reach the semi-finals.
The other attractions
There was far less goalmouth action, though perhaps just as much tension, in the Korean capital as FC Seoul prevailed over Pohang Steelers on penalties. Goalscoring opportunities remained at a premium for much of the 120 minutes, with perhaps the best chance failing to the visitors late in extra time as Kim Jaesung's free-kick was somehow kept out by Yu Sanghun. It proved to be just a taste of what was to come as Sanghun made three blocks in the shoot-out for a 3-0 win on penalties, leaving the capital club on course to out-do last year’s runners-up finish.
United Arab Emirates’ Al Ain continued their impressive Asian form, and remain on track for their first Champions League triumph since winning the maiden edition of the rebranded competition in 2003. A 2-0 home win set them up nicely for this week’s return against Al Ittihad. While a 35th minute own goal from Ismail Ahmed gave Ittihad hope, it proved to be short-lived as tournament leading scorer Asamoah Gyan netted his 12th of the campaign to restore the margin, with further insurance added by playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and substitute Ibrahim Diaky in Mecca.
It was a much tighter affair in Doha as home side Al Sadd failed to find a way past the Al Hilal rearguard to suffer a 1-0 aggregate defeat. It meant that Salman Al Faraj’s first leg strike proved the difference between the two sides and puts the two-time Asian Club Championship winners – forerunner to the Champions League – into the semi-finals for the first time since 2010.
FC Seoul goalkeeper Yu Sanghun followed up last week’s heroics to save from Pohang captain Hwang Jisoo, Kim Jaesung and Park Heechul in the shoot-out to again be the saviour for the capital club.
0 – Pohang Steelers were unable to score over 210 minutes against compatriots FC Seoul, and their woeful form in front of goal incredibly continued throughout the shoot-out as they again failed to find the net.
“People judge a team based on their result but looking back on the game today, we shouldn't be too disappointed. We had so many opportunities and what if we scored from the penalty? It would have been a different story.” Guangzhou Evergrande assistant coach Massimiliano Maddaloni
Quarter-finals, second leg
Al Ittihad 1-3 Al Ain (agg 1-5)
Al Sadd 0-0 Al Hilal (0-1)
Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1 Western Sydney Wanderers (2-2, Wanderers win on away goals)
FC Seoul 0-0 Pohang Steelers (0-0, 3-0 pens)