Buriram continue dream run, Al Ahli claim advantage

Thailand's Buriram United made light of an acrimonious managerial shake-up as they extended their dream run in the AFC Champions League with a 2-1 win over Bunyodkor in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

Two headed goals earned a first-leg win for the unfancied Thai outfit and their new coach Scott Cooper, whose predecessor was sacked hours after sealing progression from the group stage following a row with the club chairman.

Elsewhere, K League champions FC Seoul were happy to escape with a 0-0 draw after finishing with 10 men in their clash against Beijing Guoan in the Chinese capital.

In Buriram, Anawin Jujeen brought the home crowd to its feet with an impudent glancing back-header, from a ball into the box from deep, which surprised Bunyodkor keeper Murotjon Zukhurov on 16 minutes.

But in first-half injury-time the visitors hit back when a free-kick was parried to Lutfulla Turaev, whose chipped cross was met with a controlled volley near the penalty spot by substitute forward Igor Taran.

On the hour-mark, Bunyodkor's Kamoliddin Murzoev came close to breaking the 1-1 deadlock when his first-time shot with his left boot cannoned off the angle between post and crossbar.

But it was Buriram who scored the clincher on 76 minutes when, in shades of their first goal, substitute Ekkachai Samre directed a long-range free kick into the net with an improvised twisting header.

Two-time semi-finalists Bunyodkor had a strong penalty appeal waved away in stoppage time but it was a deserved victory by the Thai team, who hold the advantage ahead of the return leg next week in Tashkent.

It was Buriram's third straight win under Cooper, the former Leicester City technical director, who has guided the team to back-to-back victories in the Thai Premier League after replacing Atthaphol Puspakom two weeks ago.

Korean champs take slim advantage
Meanwhile, FC Seoul had enjoyed smooth passage to the last 16 as Group E winners, but they had a far from comfortable evening at a noisy Workers Stadium in Beijing.

Seoul dangerman Dejan Damjanovic fashioned one of the best chances of a tepid first half when he shrugged off defenders and fired a shot from the top of the 'D' which whistled past the right post.

But the K League champions' hopes of a win were dented first when Sergio Escudero went off with a hamstring injury, and then when Choi Hyo-Jin was sent off after a second yellow card in the second half.

With 10 minutes to go, Beijing's former Premier League and Liga Primera striker Freddie Kanoute had a chance to seal it but his half-volley sailed wide of the post.

Ahli well placed
Last season's AFC Champions League runners-up Al Ahli put themselves in pole position to progress through to the quarter-finals of this year's edition after drawing 1-1 at El Jaish.

Al Ahli, who lost 3-0 to Ulsan Hyundai in last November's final, took the lead on the stroke of half-time through Muataz Al-Mosa at the Al Rayyan Stadium in Doha.

The Saudi outfit were unable to hold onto that advantage, with Anderson levelling 15 minutes from time for tournament newcomers El Jaish, but they still hold the upper hand going into next week's return meeting at home.

Al Ahli's domestic rivals Al Shabab are in an even stronger position after they overturned a half-time deficit to beat Al Gharafa 2-1 away from home.

Veteran Australia forward Mark Bresciano put Al Gharafa ahead just before the break but Al Shabab drew level seven minutes into the second half through Sebastian Tagliabue and then snatched the win thanks to substitute Nasser Al-Shamrani's 83rd-minute strike.