Mixed results for frontrunners
FIFA.com’s weekly review traverses the breadth of Asia and Oceania as we look at what was a diverse range of results for the various league leaders.
In Australia the seemingly unstoppable Central Coast Mariners have suddenly hit a mid-season slump, however in the United Arab Emirates leaders Al Ain maintained their form despite the ongoing absence of their star recruit.
There is a also a look at yet more silverware added to the bulging trophy cabinet of Saudi elite Al Hilal, while Jordan’s Al Faysali are into another cup final. Further afield saw a meeting of league heavyweights in Malaysia, while Auckland City seem headed for more glory in New Zealand.
Australia’s A-League: Mariners hit choppy waters
Momentum, some say, is everything in football. Frontrunners Central Coast Mariners have now lost two on the trot after seeing their 16-match undefeated run come to an end last weekend. Brisbane Roar endured a similar scenario earlier in the season by losing five in a row after their 36-match unbeaten run concluded. A 2-1 loss against Melbourne Victory saw the Mariners' lead trimmed to five points with six rounds remaining, ahead of a key encounter next weekend against third-placed Wellington Phoenix. The race for the six-team finals series is hotting up with only Gold Coast United seemingly out of contention after their 2-1 defeat against second-from-bottom Adelaide United.
Big game: Champions Brisbane Roar seemed to have finally turned the corner after their mid-season slump, by securing a win at second-placed Wellington Phoenix. The Roar moved into second having defeated both of their nearest rivals over the past two weekends.
Headline-grabber: Melbourne Victory’s Harry Kewell last week rated his own form since retuning to the A-League as a three-and-a-half out of ten. However, the Socceroos forward rolled back the years in scoring the winner against the Mariners with a sweet volley, while Costa Rican international Carlos Hernandez earlier hit a contender for goal of the season to set the Victory on their way.
United Arab Emirates' Pro-League: Derby win inspires Al Ain
Although without the services of star recruit Asamoah Gyan, in-form Al Ain maintained their impressive form by edging Al Wahda, with Saudi Arabia icon Yasser Al Qahtani bagging the only goal of the game on 11 minutes. Hot on the heels of the nine-time champions are Al Nasr who came from behind to win 2-1 at Ajman, while champions Al Jazira overwhelmed struggling Sharjah 5-0 to maintain pressure on the top two.
Big game: Al Jazira rebounded from a defeat against Al Ahli by recording the round's biggest winning margin. Striker Ricardo Oliveira struck four times as his side romped past Sharjah, with the goals pushing the Brazilian well clear of Gyan at the top of the league's scoring chart with 13 for the campaign to date.
Headline-grabber: The name Olivera appeared to be a lucky charm with Uruguayan Juan Manuel Olivera scoring the only goal of the game as Al Wasl edged Bani Yas. The triumph saw Diego Maradona's team share fourth place with Al Shabab, although they remain nine points behind leaders Al Ain.
Despite trailing pacesetters Al Shabab by four points in the league, Saudi Arabia heavyweights Al Hilal overcame Al Ittifaq 2-1 to clinch a fifth successive Crown Prince Cup. Swedish striker Christian Wilhelmsson opened the scoring for Hilal after nine minutes before Nawaf Al Abid doubled the lead midway through the first half. Although Ittifaq pulled one back through Yahya Sulaiman, however Hilal kept their cool to lift the trophy once again.
In Jordan, Khalil Bani Ateyah scored the match-winner two minutes from time as Al Faysali prevailed 3-2 at Shabab Al Ordon in their Jordanian FA Cup second-leg semi-final. The result, coupled with their 1-0 home win in the previous leg, saw the domestic heavyweights through to April’s final, where only Mansheyat now stand in the way of a 16th cup crown.
In Malaysia, Kelantan edged Terengganu 2-1 in a match which pitted together last season’s league winners and runners-up. The win lifted undefeated Kelantan top after seven rounds with Perak falling to second after their 2-0 defeat at Terengganu PBDKT T-Team.
Just as the New Zealand league title race seemed set to go down the wire, Oceania champions Auckland City have put one hand on the premiership trophy with a 6-0 rout of YoungHeart Manawatu. Chad Coombes led the way scoring a hat-trick with, remarkably, all six goals scored in the first half. Waitakere United moved back into second with a 4-0 win against Waikato to leapfrog Canterbury who could only secure a 1-1 draw at Team Wellington.