Leaders march on in the Far East
The past weekend saw most Asian frontrunners cruising to comfortable victories to maintain their momentum, with their respective leagues approaching the midway mark. Jeonbuk Motors continued their dominance in the K-League, hitting three unanswered goals past Sangju Sangmu, while J.League pacesetters Kashiwa Reysol overwhelmed Ventforet Kofu to keep their four-point cushion intact. China PR’s Guangzhou Yiyao also cemented their place at the summit following a 2-1 victory over Jiangsu Sainty. FIFA.com reviews the latest developments across Asia.
Japanese J.League: Kashiwa stay clear
Kashiwa Reysol maintained their four-point cushion at the summit courtesy of a resounding 4-1 victory at Ventforet Kofu. Their closest three rivals are all level on points. Leading the trio on goal difference are Yokohama F Marinos, who beat Montedio Yamagata 2-0. Kawasaki Frontale are trailing behind following a 2-2 draw at Kashima Antlers, while Vegelta Senda slipped to fourth after losing to hosts Shimizu S-Pulse by a solitary goal.
The big game: Junya Tanaka and Jorge Wagner each struck a brace as Kashiwa defeated struggling Ventforet. The former was twice on target to give his side a 2-0 lead at the break, but the second half belonged to the latter. The opponents hit back hard after the interval and pulled one back through Mike Havenaar on the hour-mark, but Wagner duly restored their two-goal cushion shortly afterwards before netting the winner eight minutes from time.
The headline-grabber: Japan playmaker Yasuhito Endo continued his excellent form as he scored one and set up another two to steer Gamba Osaka to a 5-3 home win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The result moved the hosts to fifth, one place above their visitors.
Korean K-League: Motors in top gear at midway point
With the regular season reaching its halfway point, the top two continued to power on. Jeonbuk extended their winning streak to five games with a 3-0 success at Sangju Sangmu, while Pohang Steelers beat Gyeongnam 3-2 to keep themselves four points behind the leaders. Elsewhere, Jeju United claimed a dramatic 2-1 win over Gwangju to stay third, before Daegu defeated Seongnam Chunma by the same scoreline thanks to a last-gasp winner from Thiago Quirino.
The big game: Brazilian forward Mota struck twice and set up another goal as Pohang edged Gyeongnam on Saturday. Derek Asamoah opened the scoring for the Steelers before Lee Hun equalised midway through the first half. Mota then put his side ahead with a header, and although Yun Il-Lok restored parity for the hosts shortly afterwards, a left-footed free-kick from Mota was enough to seal a 3-2 victory.
The headline-grabber: Jeju’s diminutive forward Santos continued his habit of scoring crucial goals as the Brazilian netted his seventh of the season against Gwangju, with a rare header off a cross from his compatriot Jair. It was his fourth goal in the past three games, including a brace against Jeonbuk last week.
Chinese Super League: Guangzhou widen the gap
Pacesetters Guangzhou Yiyao maintained their unbeaten record in their debut season in the top flight, with a 2-1 home defeat of struggling Jiangsu Sainty. The result, coupled with second-placed Beijing Guoan's 1-1 home draw with Tianjin Teda, saw the newly-promoted side extend their lead above the capital team to five points. Meanwhile, a 2-1 triumph at Dalian Shide moved Shanghai Shenhua up to third, only behind Beijing on goal difference.
The big game: Beijing's hopes of their second league title were dealt a blow as they only salvaged a point against Tianjin at home. It was their third straight draw. The hosts entered the game with a slight mental edge, having won two and drawn four of their previous six meetings. But it was the visitors that came out flying, forward Yu Dabao pouncing on to a rebound to put his side ahead before having a goal disallowed just before the break. Beijing upped the tempo after restart and the long-awaited equaliser came on 77 minutes, when Roberto tapped in from close range.
The headline-grabber: It was nothing strange that Guangzhou won again but it was the proceedings against Jiangsu that raised the eyebrows, with all three goals being penalties. Striker Gao Lin opened the scoring for the hosts on 33 minutes, before Cleo doubled the lead on the hour-mark. The visitors grabbed a consolation shortly afterwards when Bruce Djite converted a spot-kick he himself.
A derby took centre stage in Friday's King's Cup final in Saudi Arabia, with Jeddah giants Al Ittihad facing Al Ahli in a high-profile meeting. Neither side found the net in regular or extra time, but in the consequent penalty shoot-out it was the latter that emerged 4-2 victors to seal the title, with the result also confirming their progression to next season’s AFC Champions League.
In Thailand, the national league reached the midway mark with the runaway leaders Buriram PEA remaining at the top of standings. However, second-placed Chonburi closed the gap on the pacesetters to seven points with a hard-fought 4-3 win at Royal Thai Army, while reigning champions Muang Thong maintained third place after seeing off Sisaket 1-0 at home.
In Singapore, the top-of-the-table clash between Tampines Rovers and Home United ended in the latter's favour, with two second-half goals from Qiu Li and Firdaus Idros securing them a 2-0 home win. The result saw the two sides swap places, with Home United moving into pole position at their opponents' expense.