Strikers shine as leaders press on
Asian fans were treated to a wonderful weekend of football, during which big scorelines and thrilling encounters were commonplace. Also dominating the headlines were a series of star strikers who embarked on goal sprees as their respective sides enjoyed morale-boosting victories.
In the Uzbek League, leaders Bunyodkor thrashed Sogdiana Jizzakh 6-1, with Victor Karpenko and Milos Trifunovic each on target twice, while in Korea Republic Yeom Ki-Hun struck a hat-trick as his Suwon Bluewings side won 4-1 against Daegu. Join FIFA.com as we review these matches and all the action across Asia’s major leagues.
Japan's J-League: Heavyweights bounce back
Surprise front-runners Kashiwa Reysol continue to set the pace in Japan. Their latest success, a 2-0 win over bottom side Avispa Fukuoka, saw the leaders open up a four-point gap over second-placed Vegalta Sendai, who could only pick up a point at Albirex Niigata. Elsewhere, a clutch of erstwhile faltering giants stole the show, most notably Gamba Osaka, who defeated Yokohama F Marinos 2-1, and Kashima Antlers, who emerged 2-0 victors over Jubilo Iwata.
The big game: Despite the departure of top scorer Adriano, Gamba proved they do not lack for firepower by overpowering visitors Yokohama. Yasuhito Endo was the driving force behind their victory, opening the scoring on nine minutes with a sublimely taken free-kick, before his inch-perfect corner found Satoshi Yamaguchi's head midway through the opening half. Hun Hoan Kim pulled one back for the visitors in the closing minutes, but it proved too little, too late.
The headline-grabber: Sanfrecce Hiroshima conceded third place in the standings after losing 2-0 away to Kawasaki Frontale. Takuro Yajima and Kosuke Kikuchi struck either side of half-time to ensure a comfortable home win for Kawasaki.
China's Super League: Guangzhou strengthen lead
Pacesetters Guangzhou Yiyao cementing their place at the summit in China with a 2-0 home win over Shaanxi Chanba, while Beijing Guoan remain their closest challengers despite being held to a 1-1 draw by reigning champions Shandong Luneng. Liaoning Whowin produced the biggest scoreline by crushing the visiting Shenzhen Ruby 6-1 to move up to third. Also making progress in the standings are Hangzhou Greentown, who climbed to fourth courtesy of a solitary-goal home win over Shanghai Shenhua.
The big game: Shaanxi travelled to Guangzhou knowing that only a win would put them up among the title-contenders, but after a goalless opening half, it was the home side who seized the initiative when Brazilian forward Muriqui's cross-cum-shot flew into the net. Midfielder Wu Pingfeng struck in added time to seal Shaanxi’s fate and secure a 2-0 win for the leaders.
The headline-grabber: One of the C-League's most high-profile imports, Brazilian striker Obina, has been found struggling in his first season in the C-League, scoring only four times for Shandong. However, the 31-year-old former Flamengo marksman showed a glimpse of his undoubted talent on Saturday when he struck the equaliser against Beijing with an acrobatic shot.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Goals galore as top two march on
Round 14 in the K-League certainly wasn’t short on goals, with 29 produced across the eight matches. Both Jeonbuk Motors and Pohang Steelers came from behind to claim dramatic victories against Jeju United and Sangju Sangmu, as the Motors maintained a four-point lead at the top. Meanwhile, the struggling trio of FC Seoul, Seongnam Chunma and Suwon Bluewings all recovered from recent slumps with morale-boosting wins over minnows Gangwon, Daejeon and Daegu respectively.
Big game: Hosts Pohang seemed to be heading for a humiliating defeat at the hands of Sangju, who took a two-goal lead through Kim Jung-Woo and Jang Nam-Suk before half-time. However, the Steelers fought back to score four times after the interval, with Brazilian striker Mota scoring from the spot and setting up three more to turn a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead. Ko Cha-Won pulled one back deep into stoppage time to ensure a nervy finish, but the visitors could do nothing to prevent the points slipping away.
Headline-grabber: Yeom Ki-Hun’s hat-trick against Daegu was not only the first of his professional career, but has given Suwon their first win in eight matches. This feat was achieved much to the delight of the Bluewings faithful, not to mention their former coach Kim Ho, who made a rare appearance in the northern stand to join the supporters group Grand Bleu.
In Saudi Arabia, Al Ittihad secured their place in the King's Cup final with a 4-1 aggregate win over arch-rivals Al Hilal. Having won the semi-final first leg 3-0, Ittihad came from behind to hold Hilal to a 1-1 draw in the return match on Sunday. Meeting them in the final will be the winners of the match between Ahli and Al Wahda, who play the decisive second leg today with the score poised at 2-2.
In Uzbekistan, international strikers Victor Karpenko and Milos Trifunovic each struck a brace as leaders Bunyodkor trounced hosts Sogdiana Jizzakh 6-1. The result maintained the leaders’ three-point cushion on Pakhtakor, who dispatched Samarkand-Dinamo 3-1 at home. Raising most eyebrows, however, was Nasaf Qarsi striker Nosirbek Otakuziev, who was on target four times as his side romped past Shurtan Guzar 5-0.
In Singapore, Tampines Rovers maintained their four-point lead over second-placed Home United with a resounding 5-0 win over bottom side Woodlands Wellington. At the opposite end of the table, despite languishing at the second from bottom, Tanjong Pagar secured their second win this season by overcoming the Young Lions by a solitary goal.