Asian front-runners in mixed moods
The past week sent a warning shot to the majority of leaders across Asia, who were found stumbling in their respective fixtures. K-League pace-setters Jeonbuk Motors continued to lose ground with their third consecutive draw, while J-League’s Kashiwa Reysol conceded their place at the top to Yokohama F Marinos after losing to Kawasaki Frontale.
Vietnamese giants SLNA, too, lost 1-0 at B.Binh Duong, allowing the nearest rivals T&T Ha Noi to close in. But it was a different story for Nepal’s Police Club, who retained the Martyr's Memorial A-Division League title on goal difference at the expense of Manang Marsyangdi Club despite losing the concluding game to the runners-up by a solitary goal. Join FIFA.com as we review the thrilling action throughout the continent.
Korea Republic's K-League: Leaders stumble, underdogs shine
Current leaders Jeonbuk Motors were held to a 1-1 draw at provincial rivals Gwangju, while second-placed Pohang Steelers fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of FC Seoul. It was also a weekend that saw south coast minnows continue their run of good results. Busan I'Park and Chunnam Dragons beat Sangju Sangmu and Daegu respectively, but the biggest surprise of the round was Gyeongnam's 7-1 drubbing of Daejeon Citizen. Meanwhile, newly crowned League Cup champions Ulsan Horangi became the first team to have won 400 matches in the K-League with a 2-1 victory at bottom club Gangwon.
Big game: The second edition of the War of the Birds - between former Korea Republic strikers in the shape of Pohang coach Hwang Sun-Hong and Seoul manager Choi Yong-Soo, namely the Stork and the Eagle - ended in the latter's favour yesterday. The pair had shared the spoils in their first encounter in Seoul last month, but this time the visitors grabbed an early two-goal lead through Dejan Damjanovic who jumped into the top of the scoring chart with 13 goals. Ko Mu-Yeol pulled one back for the Steelers but it was not enough to prevent his side's only third defeat of the season.
Headline-grabber: Substitutes Kim Shin-Wook and Lee Jin-Ho struck in the second half as Ulsan came from behind to defeat Gangwon 2-1, reaching a milestone of 400 victories for the first time in the history of professional football in Korea Republic. The Tigers' first win was a 3-2 thriller against Lucky Goldstar (forerunner to FC Seoul) in Busan on 8 April 1984.
China's Super League: Guangzhou go nine clear
During a fairly lacklustre round which saw half of the eight matches end in stalemates, it was the runaway leaders Guangzhou Yiyao that continued to run riot, putting five unanswered goals past Nanchang Hengyuan to extend their cushion at the summit to nine points. Runners-up Beijing Guoan, meanwhile, only managed a goalless draw at Hangzhou Greentown but are still a point clear of Liaoning Whowin after they shared the spoils with hosts Shanghai Shenhua in a 1-1 tie.
The big game: Shanghai missed the chance to return to top five as they threw away a 1-0 lead to drop points at home against Liaoning. Wu Xi struck just before the break to put the hosts ahead but after squandering a series of chances after the interval, they were punished for their profligacy when Yang Xu equalised for the visitors midway through the second half.
The headline-grabber: With Guangzhou unchallenged at the top, few question their hope of winning the title in their debut Super League season. The focal point has thus switched to contention for the golden boot awards. To the delight of Guangzhou’s faithful, their Brazilian striking duo Cleo and Muriqui are both among the hot candidates for the individual prize, with the former topping the scoring-chart alongside Shanghai Shenhua's Luis Salmeron with ten goals, while the latter occupies the second place, just a goal shy.
Japan's J-League: Yokohama reach summit as Nagoya close in
A 3-2 loss at Kawasaki saw Kashiwa lose their place at the top to Yokohama, whose 1-1 draw with Omiya Ardija leaves them level with Kashiwa on 34 points, but leading on goal difference. Having overcome a slow start this season, defending champions Nagoya Grampus have clawed themselves back into winning form recently, with their 2-0 defeat of Montedio Yamagata steering them to third place, tied with Kawasaki on 30 points.
The big game: Kashiwa entered their 17th game desperately needing a win to strengthen their slim cushion at the summit. However, it was hosts Kawasaki that took the driving seat when Takuro Yajima opened the scoring after five minutes, before Yu Kobayashi doubled the lead on the hour-mark. The visitors upped the tempo after the restart and were lucky to pull one back courtesy of an own goal by Kosuke Kikuchi on 54 minutes, before Leandro Domingues drew them level 17 minutes later. With so much at stake, Juninho settled the contest with a spot-kick six minutes from time.
The headline-grabber: Ventforet Kofu produced this round's biggest upset by pulling off a 4-3 triumph over Gamba Osaka. The result moved them beyond the relegation zone to 16th place while Gamba missed out on a place in the top three.
In Vietnam, pace-setters SLNA maintained their place at the top despite losing 1-0 at B.Binh Duong. Second-placed T&T Ha Noi, meanwhile, cut short the gap with the leaders to four points with a resounding 7-1 crushing of CS. Dong Thap 7-1.
In Nepal, Nepal Police Club retained the league title as the season's curtain went down on Saturday. The triumph marked their third domestic championship having achieved their maiden success back in 2007. Despite losing the concluding game to Manang Marsyangdi Club by a solitary goal, a result which left the two sides level at the top on 44 points, it was the Nepal Police Club that prevailed on goal difference.
The title-race reached a white-hot level in Singapore with Tampines Rovers leading runners-up Home United by the slightest of margins. However, it was Etoile that stole the show recently, moving to third with a 3-0 drubbing of Balestier Khalsa at home. With two games to spare, much is at stake with even Etoile harbouring hopes of title, as they have a game in hand, despite trailing behind the leaders by four points.