Kawasaki, Bunyodkor profit in Asia
Kawasaki Frontale battled back from a goal down to beat fellow J-League side Nagoya Grampus 2-1 in the first leg of the AFC Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Lanky Australian striker Joshua Kennedy headed home in the 27th minute for Nagoya but Japan midfielder Kengo Nakamura pulled one back for Kawasaki on the hour mark and Brazilian striker Juninho put them ahead three minutes later.
Kawasaki, who have not lost to Nagoya in their recent nine encounters, go to Nagoya in the return leg on 30 September to vie for a semi-final berth in the top Asian club competition.
"We had a few chances but could not put them away in the first half," Kawasaki coach Takashi Sekizuka said. "Kengo's goal shook the kinks out of our play and helped us regain our usual rhythm. We are only halfway through though."
Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic predicted an exciting return leg. "We must play hard and aggressively against the fast-moving Kawasaki players," he said. "I really think it will be as interesting as today's match."
Kawasaki beat 2008 champions and fellow J-League side Gamba Osaka to reach the quarter-finals. In the 2007 quarter-finals they lost to Iran's Sepahan after a penalty shoot-out.
In other quarter-final matches later Wednesday, Umm Salal of Qatar beat South Korea's FC Seoul 3-2 and Uzbek side Bunyodkor defeated another Korea Republic club, Pohang Steelers, 3-1.
Bunyodkor, now managed by former Brazil and Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, fell behind due to No Byung-jun's eighth minute opener. But Scolari then watched as reigning AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov turned in two Jasur Hasanov crosses inside the final 11 minutes at JAR Stadium after Victor Karpenko had pulled the home side level before half-time.
Scolari's side were helped when Pohang lost defender Kim Hyung-il to a red card just after the hour mark. The Brazil 2002 FIFA World Cup™ winning boss said: "It was a very important game to win. There were moments in the match when they the better side and sometimes when Bunyodkor were the better side, we both played beautiful football," he said.
"We now hope that we will go through but the result is not 3-1, the result will not be decided until the last minute in Pohang. I said before the game we would change our history but this is only the first game - it will change after the second game. It will be a different game in Pohang and we need to score in Korea."
Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor battle Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia on Thursday for the right to play Kawasaki or Nagoya in the semis in October.