It proved a varied weekend for the frontrunners across the breadth of Asia, with new leaders in Japan and China’s star-studded Guangzhou Yiyao only narrowly clinging on to their lengthy unbeaten run. There were also rare points dropped by Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Motors and Uzbekistan’s all-conquering Bunyodkor. FIFA.com’s weekly review of domestic football matters in Asia also takes in the latest from Iran, Jordan and Qatar.
Japan’s J.League: Frontrunners stumble as champions show class
Champions Nagoya Grampus Eight finally returned to the summit just past the halfway mark of the season, thanks to a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Josh Kennedy continued his recent prolific form for Nagoya, bagging his tenth of the season to move joint-top of the J.League’s top scorers list, while also providing an assist for Yoshizumi Ogawa’s first-half opener. Kashiwa Reysol, meanwhile, relinquished top spot in spectacular fashion by crashing to a 6-1 defeat against Jubilo Iwata. Kashiwa remain on 41 points, one point behind Nagoya Grampus, with Gamba Osaka and Yokohama Marinos a further point adrift.
Big game: The Osaka derby ended all square as Gamba and Cerezo traded a goal each. The failure to collect three points proved costly for Gamba, who not only missed the chance to move top, but missed an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge for their AFC Champions League exit against the same opponents earlier this year.
Headline-grabber: New Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Souto scored his first two goals for Jubilo Iwata, the 27-year-old former Santos man proving his worth in the rout of hitherto table-topping Kashiwa.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Steelers close gap on Motors
Leaders Jeonbuk Motors were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Daegu, while Pohang Steelers claimed a 2-0 victory at Gangwon. The Steelers are now four points adrift of the Motors on 44, and four above FC Seoul, who moved into third place with a dramatic 1-0 win over Chunnam Dragons. Busan I’Park kept up the pressure on the leading pack by defeating Incheon United 1-0 at home, but Jeju United dropped points against struggling Daejeon Citizen.
Big game: Brazilian forward Santos struck twice and set up another goal but his Jeju side were held to a 3-3 draw by Daejeon at home. The visitors took an early lead through Park Sung-Ho, who went on to put his side ahead on the stroke of half-time after Santos had restored parity midway through the first half. The diminutive striker then turned provider for Kang Soo-Il’s equaliser two minutes after the interval, before firing home what looked likely to prove the winner just before the hour-mark, only for Ho Lee to secure a late equaliser.
Headline-grabber: Former Seongnam Chunma winger Mauricio Molina fired the winner deep into added time as Seoul beat Chunnam 1-0 on Saturday, before Molina’s replacement Everton scored a goal and set up another to lead Seongnam to a 3-2 victory over Ulsan Horangi the following day.
China PR’s Super League: Battle intensifies among chasing pack
Star-studded Guangzhou Yiyao needed a last-ditch effort by Gao Lin to maintain their amazing unbeaten run after 19 rounds as they secured a 1-1 draw at Liaoning Whowin. Despite the draw, the runaway leaders still hold a nine-point lead over of Beijing Guoan, who recorded a solitary-goal home victory over struggling Nanchang Hengyuan. Champions Shandong Luneng, meanwhile, moved into third place courtesy of a 2-0 win over visiting Shanghai Shenhua.
Big game: Entering their meeting against Shanghai with a slight historic edge, Shandong opened brightly when Brazilian striker Obina broke the deadlock after 34 minutes. Lebanese playmaker Roda Antar sealed the 2-0 triumph nine minutes after the restart to ensure the hosts claimed their ninth win of the campaign, while the visitors, winless for seven games, slipped to ninth.
Headline-grabber: 2007 winners Changchun Yatai picked up their first victory this season on home soil as they put three unanswered goals past Shaanxi Chanba. Cameroonian midfielder Modeste Mbami was twice on target to give the hosts a 2-0 half-time lead, before Yovanny Arrechea rounded off a spirited win shortly after the interval.
In Iran, Sepahan finally secured their first victory of the new season by seeing off winless Sanat Naft 2-1 at home. Meanwhile, Esteghlal and Foolad defeated Mes and Naft Tehran by identical 2-1 scorelines to move level on seven points with Saba Battery, although it is the latter who remain top on goal difference thanks to a 2-0 triumph over Rah Ahan.
Bunyodkor’s lead at the top in Uzbekistan has been eaten into after the champions made a rare stumble, with AFC Cup quarter-finalists Nasaf holding them to a scoreless draw. Pakhtakor took full advantage with a 3-1 victory over Shurtan to move within six points of the summit.
Al Wehdat maintained their perfect start in Jordan with a 3-0 victory over Al Jalil in the second round. Winners of four trophies last season, Al Wehdat also won by the same scoreline in the opening round against That Ras. Mahmoud Shelbaieh has an early lead in the hunt for the top goalscorers crown having bagged three already, including a double against Al Jalil.
In Qatar, Al Arabi continued their Group D leadership in the Sheikh Jassim Cup with victory in their second match against Al Wakra 2-1 to edge towards a semi-final berth. Qatar league champions Lekhwiya also have a foot in the last four thanks to a 5-2 win over Mesaimeer. In Group C, Umm Salal moved top after defeating Al Khraitiat 3-2 to also edge closer to the knockout stage.