Asia/Oceania Leagues review
FIFA.com’s regular review of Asia and Oceania this week visits seven leagues stretching from New Zealand in the east to Kuwait, Oman and Iran in the west. The latter saw a remarkable round of action with all three frontrunners stumbling as the finishing line comes into view. Elsewhere there were numerous stalemates in Korea Republic, while India saw the season’s biggest derby take place in Kolkata. The Chinese C-League remains well poised after two rounds, while championships were decided in Kuwait and New Zealand.
Iran's Pro League: Top three stumbled
Surprises dominated this weekend's Iranian league with all top three sides on the losing side. Frontrunners Sepahan were edged out 3-2 by Mes Kerman, but still maintained a five-point lead thanks to Ali Daei's Persepolis, who secured a stunning 3-0 victory against Zob Ahan. Third-placed Esteghlal also missed the opportunity to make up ground after falling 2-1 to Teraktor Sazi.
Big game: With just six games remaining, holders Sepahan faced a tough road trip to Mes Kerman. The midtable hosts started brightly with a goal from their Brazilian striker Luciano on 19 minutes. Ibrahima Toure pulled the visitors level two minutes later, but Edinho struck again to restore the home side's lead shortly afterwards, before Keyvan Amraei made it 3-1 after the hour-mark, leaving Hadi Aqili's late strike nothing more than a consolation.
Headline-grabber: Zob Ahan's hopes of a first-ever league title were dealt a severe blow on Sunday with defeat against Tehran giants Persepolis. Last year’s AFC Champions League finalists were caught out just after the break by Amir Hossein Feshangchi. Vahid Hashemian doubled the lead for Persepolis on 66 minutes before Mohammad Nouri sealed the win which saw them move into fifth.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Stalemates all around
There were no fewer than six draws - including four goalless ones - out of eight matches over the weekend, as Daejeon Citizen and Pohang Steelers remained on top of the K-League with 11 points from five games. Both sides were held to draws at home by Jeju United and Incheon United respectively, while Daegu and Ulsan Horangi claimed victories over Gyeongnam and Gangwon at home.
Big game: Daegu moved up to third place thanks to a dramatic 2-1 win against Gyeongnam. Kim Hyun-Sung opened the scoring midway through the first half before Yoon Bitgaram made it 1-1 from the spot with six minutes remaining. However, the hosts had the last laugh as Juninho converted another penalty two minutes into stoppage time.
Headline-grabber: Pohang welcomed struggling Incheon to the Steelyard on Saturday as they looked to take over pole position with a comfortable win. Midfielder Hwang Jin-Sung scored in each half to put the hosts ahead twice. But United pulled level on both occasions through firstly Uzbekistan international Timur Kapadze, and then Yoo Byung-Soo, although their goals were only enough to earn a share of the points.
India’s I-League: East Bengal decisive in derby
East Bengal came out on top of the Kolkata derby winning 2-1 over Mohun Bagan to stay in third on the tail of leaders Salgaocar who didn’t play over the weekend. Churchill Brothers remained second with a 2-1 comeback win over Chirag United at the Nehru Stadium in Margao. Dempo, further adrift in fourth, needed a double from Nigerian Ranti Martins, including a last-minute equaliser, to earn a share of the points against Viva Kerala.
Big game: All eyes were on the Salt Lake stadium for the 299th instalment of one of Asia’s biggest derbies, where East Bengal claimed three important points to stay in the hunt for their maiden I-League title with five rounds remaining. Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey scored the opener, before setting up Baljit Sahni for the winner, following Surkumar Singh’s equaliser early in the second half.
Headline-grabber: Sunil Chetri scored the goal of the weekend but it wasn’t enough for his Chirag United side who fell 2-1 to Churchill Brothers. The former Kansas City Wizards striker scoring with a spectacular overhead kick, only for Churchill to prevail thanks to two second-half goals.
New Zealand’s championship was decided in dramatic fashion with Waitakere edging rivals Auckland City in a five-goal thriller. However, Waitakere, who comfortably finished top of the league standings, were forced to rely on a last-minute own goal from James Pritchett to prevail. Auckland will have the chance for redemption against Amicale in next weekend’s OFC O-League final where they hold a 2-1 first-leg advantage.
In China, Honduran striker Luis Ramirez struck twice and set up another as Hangzhou Greentown came from behind to defeat hosts Beijing Guoan 3-1, and claim top spot on goal difference after two rounds. The only other team with a perfect record, Shanxi Chanba, won at Shenzhen Ruby with Dino Djulbic scoring the only goal. The match between reigning champions Shandong Luneng and 2008 winners Changchun Yatai ended 1-0 in the former's favour, with Roda Antar sealing the triumph for the hosts nine minutes from time.
Al Qadsia claimed the Kuwait title by beating nearest rivals Kuwait SC 2-0 on the final day of the season to secure their fourteenth league crown. Going into the match, Al Qadsia were leading Kuwait SC by one point and needed just a draw to seal the title. Fahad Al Nasari took Al Qadsia a goal clear two minutes before the half-hour mark while Firas Al Khatib doubled the advantage just after the interval.
In Oman, Al Arouba are leading the 12-team league with 38 points, four more than Suwaiq with three more rounds remaining. In their most recent outings, Al Arouba, downed Dhofar 2-0 while Suwaiq eased past Al Ahli Sadab 3-0.