East Asia's leaders maintain charge
The leagues of Japan, Korea Republic and China PR are finally starting to take shape, with the frontrunners this weekend maintaining their status at the top of the respective competitions. After spme topsy-turvy opening months, Kashiwa Reysol, Jeonbuk Motors and surprise packets Guangzhou Yiyao lead all others in three of east Asia’s elite competitions. Elsewhere, there is a look at United Arab Emirates, where the hunt for passage to the AFC Champions League continues, plus the latest from Malaysia and Fiji.
Japan’s J.League: Unfancied Kashiwa continue to fly high
Surprise early leaders Kashiwa Reysol continued their stunning form, this time against Vissel Kobe where a 3-0 victory moved pushed them further clear at the top. A brace from striker Junya Tanaka and a goal by Brazilian Leandro Dominguez lifted Reysol to a fourth victory in as many home games. Kashiwa benefitted from a 1-1 stalemate between Vegalta Sendai and Yokohama F. Marinos, who now sit three and four points off the pace respectively.
Big game: Sanfrecce Hiroshima jumped to fourth place, behind Yokohama on goal difference, thanks to a brace by Koji Morisaki in their 2-1 win over struggling J.League giants Kashima Antlers.
Headline-grabber: Kawasaki Frontale skipper Kengo Nakamura turned in a virtuoso performance to ensure Gamba Osaka’s week went from bad to worse. After being knocked out of Asia, Gamba’s misery continued in Kawasaki where Nakamura scored twice from outside the box, the second with a last-gasp free-kick that gave his side a dramatic 2-1 victory.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Jeonbuk remain top, aspirants falter
Jeonbuk Motors took a two-point lead at the top after a dramatic victory at Daejeon Citizen, while Pohang Steelers failed to preserve a two-goal lead at home against Daegu. Despite storming into the AFC Champions League quarter-finals last Wednesday, FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings could not keep up the momentum suffering their second defeats in as many domestic games, against Seongnam Chunma and Incheon United respectively.
Big game: Lee Dong-Gook struck twice and set up another as Jeonbuk came from behind to beat Daejeon 3-2, to move two points clear of their closest rivals. Lee cancelled out Hwang Jin-San's opening goal with a header midway through the first half, although Park Sung-Ho again put the hosts ahead from the spot. However, Lee made it 2-2 with his clinical right foot with seven minutes remaining before turning provider for Lee Seung-Hyon's last-gasp winner.
Headline-grabber: Two foreigners opened their K-League accounts as Gyeongnam FC and Jeju United shared the spoils in Changwon. Jeju's Brazilian forward Jair scored his first goal for the islanders with a left-footed volley, only for Australian central-defender Luke De Vere to head home the equaliser just before the hour mark.
China PR's Super League: Spirited wins for old champs
Dark horses Guangzhou Yiyao maintained their place at the summit with a 1-1 home draw against Changchun Yatai, but two-time champions Shanghai Shenhua reduced the gap to two points after hammering Chengdu Blades 4-1 at home. Also impressing were battling champions Shandong Luneng, who emerged 3-0 victors over heavyweights Dalian Shide.
Big game: Despite crashing out of the AFC Champions League after losing 3-0 to Jeonbuk Motors, Tianjin Teda pushed any lingering disappointment aside to prevail 2-1 at Hangzhou Greentown. Yu Dabao put the visitors ahead before the break but the hosts drew level on 68 minutes courtesy of Du Wei's header, before Tianjin sealed three crucial points with Han Yanming’s last-minute strike.
Headline-grabber: Luis Salmeron struck four goals as Shanghai produced this round's biggest win. The Argentine forward cemented his place at the top of the scoring chart, three goals clear of second-placed Cleo of Guangzhou.
Recently crowned United Arab Emirates champions Al Jazira needed a last minute equaliser from Aly Mabkhot to secure a 3-3 home draw with Al Shabab and maintain their unbeaten season. Despite being held 1-1 by Sharjah, Bani Yas are close to locking away second place and hold a four-point buffer with two rounds remaining. A battle royale is taking place in the contest to secure third, where possible AFC Champions League berths are on the line. Al Wasl, who await the arrival of new coach Diego Maradona next season, narrowly lead a group of four teams separated by just two points
Kelantan have move top with three rounds remaining in Malaysia, putting their nose in front of Terengganu by virtue of goals scored. The former secured a 1-0 win over Pahang, while their rivals fell by the same scoreline against Kedah. Selangor remain in the hunt and their 2-0 win over Negeri Sembilan has them two points off the pace.
Labasa have a narrow one-point lead over Ba, just past the halfway mark in Fiji, despite neither taking the field on the weekend. Lautoka moved three points off the pace thanks to a lone second-half goal from Abbu Zahid to edge past Nadroga, with the championship rapidly developing into a three-cornered contest.