Late action makes the difference
FIFA.com reviews all the news from Asia and Oceania where late action proved to be a recurring theme. The new season opened in Korea Republic with a drama-charged weekend highlighted by a win for champions Jeonbuk Motors over 2010 Asian champions Seongnam Chunma, where evergreen striker Lee Dong-Gook stole the show. Late drama claimed the headlines in Australia, while Tahiti’s AS Tefana are well placed to create a slice of history in Oceania. There is also a look at silverware handed out in Japan, and the latest from Hong Kong.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Home comfort on opening day
Jeonbuk Motors got off to a flying start to the season after a five-goal thriller against Seongnam Chunma, while Suwon Bluewings edged Busan I’Park 1-0 at the Big Bird. Both Jeju United and Gyeongnam netted three goals to claim comprehensive home wins over Incheon United and Daejeon Citizen respectively, but Daegu were held at home to a 1-1 draw by FC Seoul. Meanwhile, the south-eastern derby between Pohang Steelers and Ulsan Horangi ended in favour of the visiting Tigers with Kim Shin-Wook scoring the only goal of the game at the Steelyard.
Big game: All eyes were on Jeonju, where reigning champions Jeonbuk began their title defence without master tactician Choi Kang-Hee who had departed to take the reins of the national team. Lee Dong-Gook gave the hosts a quick two-goal lead midway through the first half, before Everton pulled two back for the visitors. With only eight minutes remaining, the Motors’ Brazilian playmaker Eninho stepped up to curl a trademark free-kick into the top corner for the winner.
Headline-grabber: Having scored three times in two matches for Korea Republic before returning to Jeonju last week, Lee Dong-Gook became the K-League’s all-time top scorer taking his tally to 117 goals with a brace against Seongnam, surpassing Woo Sung-Yong’s longstanding record.
Australia’s A-League: Late drama the theme
Eleventh hour action permeated the round highlighted by injury-time drama featuring the two leading clubs, albeit for very different outcomes. Brisbane Roar had the chance to draw level with leaders Central Coast Mariners only to see a late spot-kick saved as Melbourne Heart escaped with a 1-1 draw. A day later the Mariners needed an injury-time equaliser from Troy Hearfield to earn the same scoreline in the derby against Sydney FC. The draw leaves the Mariners three points clear at the top with three rounds remaining. Still hopeful of a top-two finish are Wellington Phoenix, with the New Zealanders now just three points behind the Roar after cruising to a 2-0 win against struggling Gold Coast United.
Big game: The play-off aspirations of Melbourne Victory, the nation’s best supported club, are hanging by a thread after another defeat. A disastrous night for the Victory saw Carlos Hernandez sent off and Harry Kewell miss a penalty as Newcastle Jets swooped for a 3-1 win.
Headline-grabber: Veteran Melbourne Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton has a long-standing reputation for saving penalties and his latest spot-kick heroics could ultimately cruel Brisbane’s hopes of again topping the league. Bolton saved his third penalty in a row as the Roar’s Bahraini defender Mohamed Adnan was denied during injury time, in a moment that will no doubt conjure memories of his crucial miss against New Zealand three years ago during an intercontinental FIFA World Cup™ play-off.
OFC O-League: Favourites denied
The penultimate round saw contrasting fortunes for Oceania elite, New Zealand duo Waitakere United and Auckland City. In what was a rare occurrence neither of the pair – who between them have won four of the five previous tournaments – were able to secure wins in the round. Waitakere fell to a 3-2 defeat at Fiji’s Ba leaving the New Zealanders a point shy of top spot and now relying on AS Tefana failing to overcome Ba in the final match. Auckland City had an equally difficult time in Port Moresby’s stifling heat against Hekari United, but an injury-time equaliser from Alex Feneridis ended the hopes of the 2010 winners and lifted the champions into another final.
Big game: Tahiti’s Tefana triumphed 2-0 over New Caledonia’s AS Mont-Dore with second-half goals from Roihau Degage and Jean-Claude Change Koei Chang to secure bragging rights over their Francophone rivals. More importantly Tefana are now within touching distance of being the first Polynesian island nation to reach the continental decider.
Headline-grabber: Just minutes after entering the fray as a second-half substitute Malakai Kanihewe scored the winner for Ba against Waitakere. The victory kept alive aspirations of reaching the final for the Men in Black and also brought some joy to a region badly affected by recent flooding.
In Japan, Kashiwa Reysol have continued where they left off a few months back by winning the Super Cup and claiming the first silverware of the year. Goals from Brazilians Jorge Wagner and Leandro Domingues gave the J.League champions a 2-1 victory over cup winners FC Tokyo on Saturday. Both will now commence their respective AFC Champions League campaigns in midweek, ahead of the new league season commencing next weekend.
There was a change at the top in Hong Kong as champions Kitchee regained control of the summit with a one-sided 5-2 win over NTR WF Tai Po. Kitchee are now a point clear of TSW Pegasus just past the halfway mark after the latter were held 2-2 at Hong Kong Sapling. A further four points adrift are local giants South China, who also dropped points in being held 1-1 by Sham Shui Po.