Elite on the charge in Japan, Korea
Humble J.League outfit Kashiwa Reysol continue to defy the odds as they reclaimed top spot, but formidable recent performances from Gamba Osaka and champions Nagoya Grampus provide a threatening presence. The return from a brief two-week mid-season break provided little hindrance to the elite in Korea Republic, where the form of Jeonbuk Motors and Pohang Steelers remains impressive. On the other side of the continent, the big names of Iranian football are struggling for early season form with some unfamiliar names sitting pretty at the top.
FIFA.com’s weekly review of domestic matters across Asia also looks at the latest from China PR, Uzbekistan and Thailand.
Japan’s J.League: Big guns on the charge
Defending champions Nagoya Grampus and former Asian kings Gamba Osaka both secured wins to move within striking distance of the summit. The pair took full advantage as Yokohama F Marinos stumbled at new leaders Kashiwa Reysol, to sit two points off the pace with a match in hand. Nagoya secured a 2-1 comeback victory over Jubilo Iwata thanks to goals from Yoshizumi Ogawa and Kensuke Nagai. Gamba, meanwhile, had little trouble in disposing of bottom-placed Avispa Fukuoka 2-0 with a goal in each half.
Big game: Kashiwa Reysol triumphed 2-0 in their top-of-the-table meeting with Yokohama F. Marinos to leapfrog their rivals into first. A minute's silence was observed before kick-off for former Japan defender Naoki Matsuda, who passed away at the age of 34 last Thursday. Players and officials also wore black armbands as a mark of respect for Matsuda, who spent 16 years at Yokohama.
Headline-grabber: Josh Kennedy set up both goals in Nagoya’s crucial victory over Jubilo Iwata. After several injury-plagued seasons in Germany, the beanpole Australia striker is blossoming in Japan and, with nine goals, is just one strike off the top of the scoring charts.
Korea Republic's K-League: Big guns maintain momentum
After a fortnights summer break, the K-League returned with little change as leaders Jeonbuk Motors and Pohang Steelers defeated Gangwon FC and Busan I'Park respectively. Traditional powerhouse Seongnam Chunma and reigning champions FC Seoul all claimed victories away from home, at Sangju Sangmu and Ulsan Horangi respectively, while Suwon Bluewings beat Daejeon Citizen 4-0 at home. Last season's runners-up Jeju United returned to third after a 2-0 win over Daegu FC.
Big game: All eyes were on the Steelyard on Saturday evening when second placed Pohang took on visitors Busan, who were trailing the Steelers by just two points. The hosts took an early 2-0 lead through Busan's own goal and a strike from rookie Ko Mu-Yeol, before in-form Lim Sang-Hyub pulled one back with his eighth goal of the season. Derek Asamoah seemed to have put the result beyond doubt with seven minutes remaining but Fagner made it 3-2 from the spot to ensure a nervy finish.
Headline-grabber: It took only 18 minutes from kick-off for Jeonbuk's Kim Dong-Chan to complete the fastest hat-trick in the history of the K-League, as the diminutive striker fired three unanswered goals to lead his side to a 3-0 victory at Gangwon.
Iran's Premier League: Slow start for traditional giants
The second round of matches in the fledgling Iranian season was again dominated by the inability of either Persepolis or Zob Ahan to claim maximum points. Tehran giants Persepolis lost 2-1 at Shahin in front of a packed stadium in Bushehr, with a late Mohammad Nosrati strike being their only consolation. Foolad edged Mes Kerman 1-0 to become part of a three-way fight at the top alongside Shahin and Saipa.
Big game: Teraktorsazi downed Zob Ahan thanks to a fine first-half solo goal from Shpejtim Arifi as the AFC Champions League finalists remain on just one point alongside Persepolis.
Headline-grabber: Young striker Karim Ansarifard continues to push his case to be considered the next bright attacking talent in Iranian football. A goal in Saipa’s 1-1 draw against Shahrdari took his tally to three and left him out in front on the league’s goalscorers list.
In China PR, Guangzhou Yilao's big-money signing, Argentine midfielder Dario Conca, struck twice and set up the other two as his side crushed Qingdao Jonoon 4-0 at home. The resounding victory, coupled with Beijing Guoan's goalless draw at Dalian Shide, saw Guangzhou extend their lead at the summit to 11 points. Holders Shandong Luneng share third place with Liaoning Whowin after losing 2-1 at Shaanxi Chanba.
Frontrunners Bunyodkor cemented their place at the top in Uzbekistan with a solitary-goal home victory over Sogdiana Jizzah enough to lift them eight-points clear of Pakhtakor. Despite being held to a goalless draw at Samarkand-Dinamo, the latter maintain their hold on second spot, a point clear of third-placed Nasaf Qarsi who lost 2-1 at Shurtan Guzar.
In Thailand, Piyapol Bantao completed a brace as defending champions Muang Thong United put three unanswered goals past Thai Port. Despite the triumph, they still trail second-placed Chonburi by a point and are eight points adrift of runaway leaders Buriram PEA.