Leagues reach halfway stage
© AFP

The past weekend saw a series of Asian favourites maintain their lead in their respective leagues as the competitions reached the crucial halfway point. Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande continued their rampaging form, while J,League surprise packages Vegalta Sendai remain at the top despite dropping points. K-League defending champions Jeonbuk Motors, meanwhile, opened up a one-point lead on the back of an eight-match winning streak just past the halfway mark. Join FIFA.com as we highlight some of the best encounters across the continent.

Japan's J.League: Top two drop points
Pace-setters Vegalta Sendai maintained their two-point lead ahead of Sanfrecce Hiroshima after the two sides played out a 2-2 draw in the top-of-the-table clash. The result, however, allowed both Jubilo Iwata and Kashiwa Reysol to reduce the gap on the leaders to five points after winning their respective games against FC Tokyo and Gamba Osaka.

Big match: Masakatsu Sawa completed a hat-trick as defending champions Kashiwa Reysol ran riot at Gamba Osaka in a 6-2 victory. The 29-year-old midfielder scored a quickfire brace to give the visitors a 2-0 lead after only seven minutes, before making it 5-2 on 68 minutes with his third goal to put the game beyond doubt.
Headline-grabber: With their surprise emergence this season, Sendai and Hiroshima have gradually established themselves as genuine favourites for the title.

China's Super League: Beijing slip to fourth
A 3-2 home win over Beijing Guoan saw Guangzhou Evergrande maintain a comfortable seven-point lead at the summit. With the capital side slipping to fourth, the biggest beneficiaries to this result were Jiangsu Sainty, who climbed to second courtesy of a 3-1 defeat of Guangzhou R&F at home. Remaining at the other side of the table level on 14 points, though, were Shandong Luneng and Henan Construction, whose encounter has been postponed to 1 September.

Big match: Cleo struck once and set up another as Guangzhou battled from behind to record their first victory over Beijing since their return to the top flight last season.
Headline-grabber: With 13 teams in the hands of renowned foreign managers, it was the home-grown Gao Hongbo who stole the show after his Guizhou Renhe moved into the top three with a series of brilliant results. Under the former China coach, Guizhou overcame eight-time champions Dalian Shide on Sunday to edge Beijing to third place.

Korea Republic's K-League: Jeonbuk move a point clear 
Leaders Jeonbuk Motors recorded their eighth straight win by defeating bottom club Sangju Sangmu 2-0 at home to move a point clear of FC Seoul. Suwon Bluewings continued to flounder by conceding five unanswered goals at Pohang Steelers, a result which saw them slip to third. Elsewhere, Gangwon escaped from the bottom by beating Seongnam Chunma 2-1, but that was not enough to prevent their coach Kim Sang-Ho from stepping down from the position.

Big game: FC Seoul's Dejan Damjanovic struck twice, including scoring the match-winner through a spot-kick three minutes from time as his side came from behind to edge visiting Gwangju FC. The brace moved the Montenegro forward into the top three of the league's scoring chart.
Headline-grabber: Gyeongnam's veteran goalkeeper Kim Byung-Ji became the first custodian to have kept 200 clean sheets on Wednesday as his side won comfortably 3-0 at Gangwon FC, before going on to continue his impressive form in a goalless draw with Incheon United on Saturday.

Elsewhere
In Malaysia, Singapore Lions XII's two-month lead was finally brought to an end by defending champions Kelantan, who opened up a one-point lead at the summit with a 1-0 home defeat of Selangor.  Mohd Ghaddar Mahmou scored the only goal with a header after 25 minutes as Kelantan inflicted their first loss this season on the visitors. At the other side of the table, a 4-2 defeat to Sabah saw Kuala Lumpur remain rooted to the bottom with just four points from 22 games, while Kedah recorded a spirited 2-1 win against Terengganu.

There were no changes among the top three in the Uzbek league standings, with the leading trio triumphant in their respective outings.  Bunyodkor won 2-0 at second bottom Andizhan to maintain their five-point lead over Nasaf, who dispatched Olmaliq 4-2 at home. Hot on their heels are Tashkent giants Pakhtakor, who put five unanswered goals past Metallurg Bekabad to trail Nasaf by a single point.

In Iraq, Duhok cut their gap on leaders Arbil to six points with a goalless draw at Al Sinaa. With three games in hand, however, Arbil look in a comfortable position. The three-time champions have remained undefeated so far this season and can further cement their place at the top with a win against Al Quwa Al Jawiya at home on Wednesday.