Asian Leagues review
It proved to be a poor weekend for a host of title-favourites across Asia with K-League champions FC Seoul still searching for their first win after three rounds, while Thai giants Muang Thong United suffered a second defeat less than a month into their title defence. Saudi champions Al Hilal had to make do with sharing the spoils with Al Ittihad, while Qatari holders Al Gharafa are still eight points behind runaway leaders Lekhwiya despite their comfortable victory over Al Khritiyat.
Korea Republic K-League: Early pacesetters cede top spot
All four K-League representatives prevailed in last week's AFC Champions League round, only for the quartet to endure mixed results in the weekend's domestic action. Most notably, Suwon Bluewings lost 2-0 at Pohang Steelers to concede top place to Sangju Sangmu, while holders FC Seoul fell 3-0 at Chunnam Dragons and are languishing second from the bottom.
Big game: Jeonbuk recorded their second win of the season battling from two goals down to sweep past Busan 5-2 at home. The visitors took a 2-0 lead inside the opening half-hour courtesy of Yang Dong-Hyun and Sang-Hyub Lim, but striker Lee Dong-Gook pulled a goal back for the hosts with Kim Ji-Woong equalising before the break. He then struck his second on the stroke of the hour-mark to put Jeonbuk ahead for the first time. Lee Seung-Hyun made it 4-2 before Jeong Shung-Hoon rounded off a remarkable comeback win with 11 minutes remaining leaving Jeonbuk in fifth, one point off the pace.
Headline-grabber: Featuring exclusively home-based players, Sangju Sangmu have impressed in taking an early lead in the 16-strong league with seven points from three games, despite facing a tough early draw. After opening brightly with a 2-0 triumph over Incheon United, they went on to draw 3-3 against Busan, before stunning Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 3-2 on Sunday to climb to the summit.
Saudi Arabia Professional League: Top two in stalemate
A much-anticipated meeting between the league pace-setters ended in a goalless stalemate with Al Ittihad unable to make inroads on Al Hilal’s six point lead at the top. The big winners on the weekend were Al Nasr, who leapfrogged Al Ittifaq into third with a 3-1 away win at Al Wehda.
Big game: Al Nasr’s deserved win over struggling Al Wehda continues their fine recent form which had seen them dispatch Iran’s Esteghlal 2-1 in last Tuesday's AFC Champions League. Bader Al Mutwa emerged Al Nasr's hero, opening the scoring after six minutes and although Mohaned Aseri quickly drew the hosts level, the Kuwait star netted his second to restore their lead. Seven minutes after the restart, Saad Al Harthi sealed the win with a spot-kick.
Headline-grabber: Joining Al Mutwa in scoring a double were Al Taawun's Bader Al Khames and Migen Memelli of Al Faysali, whose goals helped their respective sides to victory. It was the latter who claimed the lion's share of the spotlight by overtaking Al Shabab's Nassir Al Shamrani at the top of goalscorers list with 14 goals.
Iran Pro League: Zob Ahan maintain narrow lead
Leaders Zob Ahan and second-placed Sepahan came up with wins over Shahin and Steel Azin respectively, with the former maintaining a one-point lead at the top, however the latter have a match in hand with seven rounds remaining. Also still harbouring title aspirations are Esteghlal who sit four points off the pace thanks to a 2-0 home win over Saba Battery, while Ali Daei's Persepolis slipped to fifth after stumbling to a 2-1 defeat at Malavan.
Big game: Reigning champions Sepahan continued their recent good form with a comeback victory to defeat hosts Steel Azin. The home side went ahead through Hossein Kasemi after 22 minutes but the visitors rallied to draw themselves level after the hour-mark courtesy of defender Hadi Aghili, before Senegalese striker Ibrahima Toure wrapped up the triumph eleven minutes from time.
Headline-grabber: Striker Arash Borhani's brace against Saba Battery not only sealed Esteghlal's thirteenth win of the season but also extended the Iran international's goal tally to ten.
In Qatar, front-runners Lekhwiya continued their dominant run with a 2-1 win at Al Ahli to maintain a seven-point lead over Al Rayyan, who came away with a 2-0 victory over Umm Salal. Iraqi forward Younis Mahmoud struck a hat-trick as holders Al Gharafa brought an end to their losing run with an emphatic 5-1 home win over Al Khritiyat to move third.
Defending Thailand champions Muang Thong United continued their poor form after suffering a second defeat in four games with an astonishing 5-1 capitulation at the hands of Osotspa M-150. Having lost the season-opener 2-0 at the hands of Royal Thai Army, the ambitious club are sitting in the lower reaches of the ladder with just one win to their name. Buriram PEA have taken top spot following an impressive 2-0 triumph over heavyweights Chonburi.