Asia/Oceania Leagues review
FIFA.com’s weekly review of domestic league action across Asia and Oceania looks at the opening weekend in China PR, a surprise leader in Korea Republic and a decisive move at the top in Iran. Elsewhere the destination of the championship was decided in Lebanon, while exciting finales are in store after the penultimate weekend in Kuwait and New Zealand.
Korea Republic K-League: Daejeon on top at last
Unfancied Daejeon Citizen maintained their surprising start to the season with a 3-0 defeat of Gangwon, putting them in pole position for the first time in a decade. Hot on their heels are 2009 continental kings Pohang Steelers, who beat Gwangju 1-0 to sit in second on goal difference. Meanwhile, defending champions FC Seoul finally claimed their first win in four attempts with a 3-1 home victory over Jeonbuk Motors.
Big game: Jeju United and Sangju Sangmu were joint leaders coming into Saturday's showdown in Seogwipo, which turned out to be a six-goal thriller. The visitors drew first blood with Kim Jung-Woo scoring his fifth of the season, but Jeju fought back to make it 2-1 through Kim In-Ho and Santos. The military club restored parity with a spot-kick from Kim Jung-Woo before Ko Cha-Won fired home to give his side the lead with six minutes remaining. However, there was still time for late drama as Kang Soo-Il slid the ball in following a goalmouth scramble deep into added time.
Headline-grabber: Seoul forwards Dejan Damjanovic and Mauricio Molina are creating a devastating partnership up front, with the pair combining on Saturday to score all three of their team's goals and revive hopes for the faltering capital club.
China Super League: Mixed starts for old champs
C-League's newly-promoted duo produced shock-waves on the opening weekend of the season with Guangzhou Yiyao stunning eight-time winners Dalian Shide 1-0, while Chengdu Blades held defending champions Shandong Luneng to a 3-3 draw. There was also a surprise as two-time winners Shanghai Shenhua took the lead on three occasions only to draw against Qingdao Jonoon by an identical scoreline. Beijing Guoan saved some blushes for former champions as the 2009 winners got off to a flying start with a 2-0 triumph at Jiangsu Sainty, while Changchun Yatai's Wang Wanpeng scored the only goal of the game against Henan Construction.
Big game: Australian striking duo Brendon Santalab and Adam Kwasnik provided the heroics for Chengdu as their side produced arguably the opening round's biggest upset at Shandong. Santalab, whose scoring form helped his side finish runners-up in the first-division last season, struck in each half to draw his side level. Although Brazilian Obina restored Shandong's lead after 71 minutes, Kwasnik was on target six minutes from time to earn Chengdu a well-earned point.
Headline-grabber: With the majority of the 16 teams investing heavily on foreign strikers during the off-season, it was little surprise that imports figured heavily in the opening round, scoring 16 of the weekend’s 21 goals. Most notable was Guangzhou's Brazilian import Cleo, with the former FK Partisan striker justifying his status as the C-League's most expensive import by scoring the only goal against Dalian.
Iran Pro League: In-form Sepahan stride clear
Defending champions Sepahan continued their rampaging form as they edged out Peykan 3-2 at home for their 16th victory this season. That result, coupled with second-placed Zob Ahan's solitary-goal defeat at Malavan, saw Sepahan move five points clear at the top with four rounds remaining and remain firmly on course to earn earn their third title.
Big game: Most eyes were on the Tehran derby this weekend as two-time winners Persepolis played hosts to city rivals Esteghlal. The fiercely-contested game ended in favour of the visitors, with Iran international striker Arash Borhani on target just before the break in the decisive moment of the match.
Headline-grabber: A proven goal-scorer with Persepolis, Ibrahima Toure has been flourishing with Sepahan since his transfer two years ago. After finishing last season as the league's second top-scorer, the Senegalese striker has maintained his form in front of goal, scoring the winner against Peykan on Saturday for his 15th goal of the campaign.
In Lebanon, Al Ahed retained the league crown on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over nearest challengers Al Safa, securing a seven-point margin over their rivals with two rounds remaining. Mahmoud El Ali scored the match-winner 16 minutes from full-time. It was a third title for Al Ahed following previous victories in 2008 and 2010.
Al Qadsia and Kuwait SC took the Kuwaiti title race to the last day with commanding victories in the penultimate round. Al Qadsia routed Al Sahel 8-0 with Syria’s 2011 AFC Asian Cup star Firas Al Khatib bagging a hat-trick, while Abdulaziz Al Mashaan added a double. Kuwait SC scored a comfortable a 3-1 victory over Al Jahra. Al Qadsia hold a one-point lead over their rivals, with the pair set to meet in a dramatic conclusion to the season.
Waitakere United will face Auckland City in the New Zealand championship title decider for the fourth time in seven seasons, despite losing 1-0 to Canterbury United in the semi-final, second leg. Aaron Clapham scored the only goal of the match but the 6-2 first-leg scoreline never looked like being overturned. However, Waitakere will face OFC O-League finalists Auckland on Sunday without the services of Chris Bale after his late dismissal at Canterbury.