Surprises, stumbles and goals galore
FIFA.com reviews what proved to be a mixed weekend for leading clubs across Asia and Oceania. It was largely business as usual for the elite in Australia and United Arab Emirates, while the leagues of Qatar and Jordan saw surprise results at the top.
New Zealand representatives had differing experiences amidst a goal rush in the OFC O-League as the competition heads towards its conclusion, while the AFC Champions League began its long path with play-off rounds.
OFC O-League: Mixed fortunes for Kiwis
New Zealand’s two representatives endured mixed fortunes at continental level, with Oceania champions Auckland City on the verge of securing another appearance in the final, while defeat for city rivals Waitakere United left the other section wide open. Auckland scored a stunning 7-3 victory over Koloale of the Solomon Islands, with Adam Dickinson bagging a double to take a five-point lead over second-placed Hekari United with two matches remaining. Waitakere’s long trip to Tahiti proved fruitless as AS Tefana claimed a memorable 3-0 victory to move within two points of their rivals and maintain their final aspirations
Big game: A lone first-half strike from prolific Fiji forward Osea Vakatalesau helped Ba to a 1-0 win in New Caledonia against AS Dore and set up a three-way battle for top spot alongside Waitakere and AS Tefana. The Fijians preparations had been hit by extensive flooding in their homeland, and coach Yogendra Dutt dedicated the win to the people of Ba, saying he hopes the win “brings sunshine into their lives during this difficult time”.
Headline-grabber: Kema Jack bagged a double in Hekari United’s 2-0 victory over Vanuatu’s Amicale, ending the hopes of last year’s finalists. The goals further cemented Jack’s hero status in the Papua New Guinea side, which is filled with imported stars.
Qatar's Stars League: Top duo drop points
Lekhwiya's hopes of a fifth consecutive victory were shattered as the league leaders could only manage a goalless draw at Qatar SC. Despite these dropped points, the defending champions maintained their four-point lead over Al Sadd. The AFC Champions League holders missed the chance to close the gap on the frontrunners after being forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against fourth-placed Al Jaish.
Big match: Third-placed Al Rayyan cut the gap on Lekhwiya to six points as they put three unanswered goals past struggling Al Arabi at home. Ace marksman Afonso Alves was on target to seal the win after Fabio Cizar and Younes Ali established a two-goal lead. The goal saw Afonso cement second place in the league's scoring chart with 12 goals, just one short of Al Jaish’s Adriano.
Headline-grabber: Despite finishing last season as the league's top scorer with 15 goals for Al Gharrafa, iconic Iraqi forward Younis Mahmoud has struggled to reproduce that form with newly-adopted Al Wakra. Although Mahmoud opened the scoring against Gharrafa, a brace from Farhad Majidi saw his former club secure a 2-1 comeback victory.
Australia’s A-League: Goals and controversy
Leaders Central Coast Mariners returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix pushing the New Zealand side to fourth. The win maintained a five-point lead for the Mariners, who still have a game in hand over second placed Brisbane Roar. Ange Postecoglou’s side claimed a thrilling victory over Melbourne Victory to continue their chase of the Mariners with five rounds remaining.
Big game: The match-up between two-time winners Melbourne Victory and reigning champions Brisbane Roar promised much, and it duly delivered. The Roar were in the ascendency from the kick-off with Besart Berisha hitting the first of his two goals within the opening minute. The home side duly triumphed 3-2 but had to hang on in the end against a fast-finishing Melbourne Victory, inspired by Harry Kewell’s two-goal performance.
Headline-grabber: The absence of Gold Coast United captain Michael Thwaite saw 17-year-old Mitch Cooper named captain for the visit to Melbourne Heart. The controversy surrounding the appointment of the Vanuatu-born teenager ultimately led to a parting of the ways between coach Miron Bleiberg and the club.
Al Ain strengthened their place at the top in United Arab Emirates with a 2-0 triumph at Dubai, a result which moved them five points clear of second-placed Al Nasr, who came from behind to draw 1-1 at Al Wahda. Diego Maradona's Al Wasl, meanwhile, remain in fifth after suffering a 4-2 home defeat at the hands of Ajman.
In Jordan, it proved a disappointing weekend for leaders Al Faysali as they were dealt a 2-1 defeat at Mansheyat Bani Hasan, allowing Al Ramtha to close to just a point off the pace thanks to their solitary-goal home defeat of Al Jalil. In third, four points from the summit, are holders Al Wahdat, who fell 2-1 at Al Arabi with the win moving the struggling hosts out of the relegation zone.
Only Albirex Niigata and Woodlands Wellington have 100 per cent records after two rounds in the new Singapore S-League season. Tampines Rovers continued their sluggish start to their title defence when they went down 1-0 to Balestier Khalsa after drawing their opening fixture.
With a little over a fortnight until the AFC Champions League group stage commences, four pairs of contenders did battle in the play-offs in which the favoured teams advanced. In the continent's east, 2009 winners Pohang Steelers booked their passage with a 2-0 win over Chonburi, while Adelaide United progressed after dispatching Persipura Jayapura 3-0. In west Asia, Iranian giants Esteghlal claimed a 3-1 defeat of Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittifaq to advance and UAE's Al Shabab cruised 3-0 past Uzbekistan’s Neftchi.