Goals galore as leaders stumble
The recurring themes in FIFA.com’s weekly review of club action in Asia and Oceania are those of frontrunners tripping up and individual goalscoring excellence. In Australia, Central Coast Mariners saw a lengthy unbeaten run come to an end, while Qatar’s Al Sadd were knocked from their perch. Further afield, Jordan’s league leaders Al Faisaly finally came undone and it was a similar scenario in India, where Dempo suffered a rare defeat. There was further glory for Thailand’s all-conquering Buriram PEA, as there was for goal kings in Iraq, Qatar and New Zealand.
Australia’s A-League: Phoenix continue to soar
Wellington Phoenix remain a model of consistency, with a 2-1 comeback win at Adelaide United the second-placed New Zealand side’s fourth victory on the trot. The win, courtesy of goals from Tim Brown and Brazilian Dani Sanchez, lifted the Phoenix to within seven points of leaders Central Coast Mariners, although they have played a game more. Brisbane Roar ended Central Coast Mariners’ 15-match unbeaten run with a 2-0 victory in a replay of last season’s championship decider. The Roar secured the points courtesy of first-half goals from Erik Paartalu and Besart Berisha.
Big game: Something was seemingly set to give when the Melbourne derby brought together two teams enduring lengthy winless runs. However, 26,000 fans witnessed a goalless draw as Melbourne Heart extended their winless run to seven, while Melbourne Victory have now gone five games without a victory since former Northern Ireland international Jim Magilton took the reins.
Headline-grabber: A change of coach generally facilitates a change in fortune, but Sydney FC’s announcement that Vitezslav Lavicka will depart at the end of the current season had a negative effect. Newcastle Jets, who until a week ago had not enjoyed a win on the road for 12 months, claimed a second away victory on the trot with a 5-2 scoreline at Sydney FC, with all five goals - including two from Jeremy Brockie - scored by former Sydneysiders.
Qatar’s Stars League: Champs return to summit
A 1-1 draw at Al Khor saw 2011 FIFA Club World Cup participants Al Sadd concede top place to champions Lekhwiya, who moved a point clear at the summit thanks to a 2-0 home win over perennial challengers Al Gharrafa. Remaining third are Al Jaish, who continued their impressive recent run by putting six unanswered goals past struggling Al Khritiyat.
Big game: Having dethroned Al Gharrafa last season as they sealed a first-ever league championship, Lekhwiya have another title in their sights after inflicting a comfortable defeat on Bruno Metsu's visitors to reclaim top spot. Korea Republic midfielder Nam Tae-Hee put the hosts ahead with a penalty on ten minutes before Ivorian Lassana Diaby sealed the triumph with a last-minute strike.
Headline-grabber: Since joining Al Jaish last season from Gamba Osaka, Brazilian forward Adriano has been thriving with his newly-adopted club. The 30-year-old netted a hat-trick as his side produced this round's biggest win, with the target-man leapfrogging Rayyan's Afonso at the top of the scoring chart with 13 goals.
Iraq’s Super League: Frontrunners continue duel
A tense tussle at the top continued as leaders Al Quwa Al Jawiya remained one point ahead of Baghdad city rivals Al Talaba, following wins over Al Karakh and Al Sinaa respectively. Northern giants Duhok and Arbil maintained their pursuit of the pacesetters, while defending champions Al Zawraa continue to struggle and now lie in eighth position in the 20-team league.
Big game: The key contest of the weekend featured three-time champions Arbil and title-holders Al Zawraa. Arbil emerged victorious from the match thanks to a lone strike on the half hour from Iraq international striker Louay Salah, before they were reduced to ten men in the dying minutes when Saad Atiya received his marching orders. The win closed the gap between Arbil and leaders Al Quwa to four points, although Arbil have played one match less.
Headline-grabber: Al Quwa striker Hammadi Ahmed hit the headlines by scoring all four goals as the leaders overpowered Al Karakh 4-0. The 22-year-old striker strengthened his position at the top of the scoring charts, with 11 times this term.
There were contrasting experiences for New Zealand’s heavyweights, Auckland City and Waitakere United, over the weekend. The former managed to open up a five-point gap at the top, while the latter’s long-term hold on an OFC O-League berth is slipping from their grasp. Auckland City took full advantage of their catch-up match on Monday to win 3-1 over Hawke’s Bay United, to follow up Saturday’s victory against Waitakere in the Super City derby by the same scoreline. Further back, only three points separate Canterbury United, Waitakere and Team Wellington, with only four rounds remaining. Canterbury lie in second after their sensational 7-0 win over Hawke’s Bay, which included a record-equalling five-goal haul for Papua New Guinea-born George Slefendorfas.
In India, the much-anticipated Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan finished all square. Robin Singh scored a first-half opener for East Bengal only for Nigerian striker Odafe Okolie - three-time I-League top goalscorer - to earn Mohun a share of the spoils with a strike just after the interval. Leaders Dempo were unable to take advantage of the stalemate between the second and third-placed teams, as they succumbed to a shock 1-0 defeat against Pune at home.
Jordan's league leaders Al Faisaly fell to their first defeat of the campaign in a 1-0 reversal against Al Ramtha. The match appeared to be heading for a goalless draw until defender Ali Khuwayleh struck a dramatic injury-time winner. Just past the halfway mark of the competition, Al Faisaly remains four points clear of both Al Ramtha and champions Al Wehdat.
In Thailand, debutants Buriram PEA completed a domestic treble ahead of their looming AFC Champions League debut as they defeated Thai Port 2-0 in the League Cup final, having won the league title in a canter and pipped Muang Thong United to the Thai FA Cup. Rangsan Vivatchaichok put Buriram ahead with a free-kick on 21 minutes before Cameroonian import Clarence Bitang wrapped up a comfortable victory.