Nervy leaders stumble as finish line nears
The weekend league action in Asia was highlighted by defeat for frontrunners in Japan and Korea Republic as their season reaches its final weeks. Remarkably, Japan’s three leading teams all fell at home, while K-League’s Jeonbuk Motors were held to a goalless draw as nerves seemingly start to fray. However, the opposite was true in China PR, where Guangzhou Yiyao returned to winning ways to move within touching distance of a historic first title. FIFA.com’s weekly review also takes in the latest from Thailand, Jordan and also Qatar, where goals were in plentiful supply.
Japan’s J.League: Congestion remains amongst quintet
Three of the four title aspirants were beaten at home, with only reigning champions Nagoya Grampus Eight securing three points, leaving the top as congested as ever. The holders were 3-1 victors against Vissel Kobe, with goals from Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Jungo Fujimoto and Josh Kennedy lifting them to second, just a point off the pace. Frontrunners Gamba Osaka suffered their first loss in over two months, meanwhile, with a 2-0 reversal at third-from-bottom Ventforet Kofu. And Kashiwa Reysol and Yokohama F Marinos now occupy third and fourth place after both went down 3-1 against Omiya Ardija and Vegalta Sendai respectively.
Big game: One of the traditional highlights of the J.League season finished goalless as seven-time champions Kashima Antlers were held at home by the nation’s best-supported club, Urawa Red Diamonds. Despite the hard-won point on the road, the 2007 Asian champions now sit just two points above the relegation zone.
Headline-grabber: Mid-table Cerezo Osaka continued their stunning home form with a 6-0 rout of relegation-haunted Montedio Yamagata. Kota Fujimoto led the way with a brace for the AFC Champions League quarter-finalists, who have now tallied 18 goals in their last four home matches.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Steelers close in on Motors
Pohang Steelers claimed a 3-1 win at Sangju Sangmu to extend their winning streak to four games and move within five points of leaders Jeonbuk Motors, who were held to a goalless draw by Jeju United. FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings beat Daejeon Citizen and Daegu respectively to stay in the top four, while both Chunnam Dragons and Busan I’Park dropped points after conceding late goals against Seongnam Chunma and Gwangju. Ulsan Horangi, meanwhile, moved into seventh after their third consecutive victory, a 2-0 win at Incheon United, to stay two points shy of the play-off zone.
Big game: Seongnam welcomed back captain Kim Jung-Woo from military service as the Asian champions took on Chunnam at Tancheon, but it was a pair of Brazilians who stole the show. Forward Hevertinho and winger Everton Santos gave the hosts a 2-0 lead before An Jae-Jun pulled one back for the Dragons on the stroke of half-time. The visitors went on to level the scores with a Hwang Do-Yeon header, but Hevertinho fired home the winner with two minutes remaining to seal a five-goal thriller.
Headline-grabber: Seoul striker Dejan Damjanovic scored his second hat-trick of the season in a 4-1 victory over Daejeon, having struck three times against Sangju in May. It was also the prolific Montenegrin international’s fourth hat-trick in the K-League following his feats against Pohang in 2008 and Seongnam last year.
China PR's Super League: Fierce contest among the chasing pack
A 4-0 home win over Tianjin Teda saw Guangzhou Yiyao edge closer to their maiden C-League title, with the runaway leaders maintaining their 12-point margin at the summit with just five games left. Among the chasing pack, Beijing Guoan cemented second place by routing Henan Construction 3-0 at home, while Yangxu struck the only goal as Liaoning Whowin edged past Chengdu Blades to move third at the expense of Changchun Yatai, who were held 1-1 at Dalian Shide.
Big game: Despite suffering their first defeat last week with a 2-1 reversal at Changchun, Guangzhou bounced back in style, firing four unanswered goals past visiting Tianjin. Argentinian import Dario Conca struck twice, with Brazilians Muriqui and Gaolin also on target as the home side recorded their 17th victory.
Headline-grabber: Once again the Chinese scoring chart is dominated by foreign marksmen, with Gao Lin the only home-grown player among the top ten. Topping the scorers' list is Brazilian Leandro Netto of Henan with 13 goals, with Shanghai's Colombian striker Luis Salmeron just two goals behind.
In Jordan, leaders Al Faysali maintained their perfect record with a 3-1 victory over That Ras, with Abdul Hadi Maharma bagging a double. Champions Al Wahdat extended their unbeaten league run to six matches, but a 1-1 home draw with Al Ramtha saw them fall four points off the summit.
In Qatar, Ismaeil Mohammed struck twice in injury time as Qatar's defending champions Lekhwiya crushed Al Ahli 4-0 to make it two wins from as many games in the fledgling season. Also maintaining a 100 per cent record are Al Khor, who were 2-0 victors at Al Jaish, with Moumouni Dagano hitting both goals. However, the most impressive goalscoring performer was Al Arabi's Algerian defender Boualem Khoukhi, who completed a hat-trick in a 3-2 home triumph over Al Wakra.
In Thailand, a lone strike from Cameroon striker Franck Ohandza gave leaders Buriram PEA a jump on the chasing pack, with their 1-0 win at Thai Port opening up an 11-point margin at the summit. Title aspirants Chonburi and Muang Thong United, who have one and two matches in hand respectively, had their weekend fixtures postponed ahead of the midweek AFC Cup quarter-finals. Bangkok Glass moved up to fourth after overpowering TTM Phichit 4-0.