Iran champs crowned, Pohang return top
FIFA.com’s regular look at domestic action in Asia is this week highlighted by Sepahan setting a new benchmark in Iran with an unprecedented third title. At the other end of the spectrum, Japan and Korea Republic are still in the early stages of their respective campaigns, with contenders still jostling for dominance. It is a similar story in China PR and Uzbekistan, but in India the title race is set to go down to the wire where four teams are still in the hunt, with the finishing line now in touching distance.
Iran's Pro-League: Sepahan retain title
A goalless draw at home with Persepolis was enough for Sepahan to defend their league crown with a match to spare. The title meant Sepahan are the first club to win the national championship on three occasions, having tasted their maiden domestic success eight years ago. Esteghlal and Zob Ahan have been left to fight for second, with the former leading the latter by two points going into the concluding round. At the opposite side of the standings, bottom side Steel Azin were condemned to relegation after losing 6-1 to Shahrdari Tabriz, while Saipa moved a point above the relegation zone with a 2-2 draw at Teraktor Sazi.
Big game: Azin entered the penultimate game knowing that nothing less than three points could salvage a lifeline. However, their hopes of clinging to top-flight football were all but crushed when they went down 2-0 against Tabriz inside 17 minutes. Mohammad Gholami may have pulled one back on the half-hour mark, but the visitors hit four unanswered goals in the second period.
Headline-grabber: While the title-race has been decided, the battle for the top-scorer award is set to go down to the wire. Leading the pack is Foolad's on-song Reza Norouzi, whose remarkable five-goal haul against Pas Hamadan not only secured a 5-2 victory, but also saw him topping the scoring chart a goal clear of Mes Kerman’s' Eder Luciano.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Pohang move top, Jeju united behind Shin
Pohang Steelers came from behind to defeat Jeonbuk Motors 3-2 at home, a result that saw the 2009 Asian champions leap into pole position. Jeju United put last week's elimination from the continental stage behind them by defeating Ulsan Horangi 1-0 to move third, while champions FC Seoul claimed their third consecutive victory under the guidance of caretaker coach Choi Yong-Soo.
Big game: In what had been billed as the battle of attacking football, Pohang took on leaders Jeonbuk at the Steelyard on Sunday. The visitors grabbed a two-goal lead through former Pohang men Lee Dong-Gook and Park Won-Jae before half-time, but the Steelers came out strongly in the second half with Hwang Jin-Sung setting up two goals from corners and Chuva netting a brace to seal a dramatic comeback.
Headline-grabber: Struggling Jeju United, still reeling after striker Shin Young-Rok suffered a heart attack earlier this month, are transforming into a unit determined to collect good results, while praying for the quick recovery of the No10. Their captain Kim Eun-Jung celebrated scoring against Melbourne Victory last Wednesday with a display of "Wake up, Young-Rok" on his chest, before Shin's former Suwon Bluewings team-mate Park Hyun-Bem netted the only goal of Sunday's game against Ulsan wearing the No10 under his jersey.
Japan’s J.League: Unlikely leaders extend margin
Kashiwa Reysol maintained top spot with a 3-0 win over Albirex Niigata after six rounds. Brazilian midfielder Jorge Wagner scored one and set up another to give the club a handy three point margin, thanks to a 3-2 defeat for Yokohama F Marinos at Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who leapfrogged into second with the victory.
Big game: The disastrous opening to the season continued for Nagoya Grampus, who fell 3-1 at newly-promoted Ventforet Kofu. It was the first top-flight win in four years for the home side, while the champions remain midtable with a solitary victory.
Headline-grabber: Tadanari Lee bagged a double to help his Sanfrecce side to three crucial points at the expense of Yokohama. The scorer of Japan’s winner in January’s AFC Asian Cup final against Australia, moved top of the goalscoring charts on four goals, alongside Kashiwa’s Hideaki Kitajima.
In China PR, Guangzhou Yiyao continued their stunning run by dispatching Henan Construction 3-1 at home for their fifth win from seven matches. The only team to remain unbeaten this season, the newly-promoted side remain at the summit courtesy of their excellent form under Korean coach Lee Jang-Soo. Hot on their heels are Hangzhou Greentown and Beijing Guoan, who share second place with victories over Shandong Luneng and Qingdao Jonoon respectively.
Uzbekistan giant Bunyodkor maintained their two-point lead thanks to a comfortable 3-1 victory at Kyzylkum. Milos Trifunovic scored a double for the Tashkent side who reached the AFC Champions League Round of 16 last week. Second-placed Nasaf recorded a 2-0 win over Mashal, while perennial challengers Pakhtakor beat Navbahor 2-1 to remain third.
East Bengal’s hopes of claiming the title in India received a major boost with a 3-2 comeback win against fellow title aspirants Dempo. With two rounds remaining the Kolkata side are on 47 points, but have two matches in hand on both Churchill Brothers, who they trail on goal difference, and Salgaocar, who are three points clear thanks to their 3-1 triumph at Indian Arrows.