Familiar kings crowned in Australia, India
FIFA.com’s weekly review of club matters across Asia and Oceania is highlighted by championship crowns secured by Brisbane Roar and Dempo SC in Australia and India respectively. The finishing line also looms large in both Iran and New Zealand, while further afield there is also a look at the latest from Japan, where an early season fairytale continues to be played out, as well as action from China PR, Korea Republic and Thailand.
India’s I-League: Delight for Dempo
Dempo clinched a record third crown with a match to spare after holding nearest challengers East Bengal to a scoreless draw. Despite the lack of goals, both teams hit the woodwork at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, with Dempo having now won three of the five I-League titles. The hopes of former champions Churchill Brothers taking second spot suffered a blow, as the Goa-based club – one of four in the 14-team league - were held to a goalless draw by relegation-threatened Pailan Arrows.
Big game: Leading a six-team charge to finish second are Pune FC, who saw off last year’s champions Salgaocar 2-0 thanks to goals in either half. It was a tale of two penalties in Pune as Mandjou Keita converted for the home side while Rahul Kumar failed to do likewise for the visitors.
Headline-grabber: The championship win provided yet another piece of silverware for long-serving coach Armando Colaco. Currently also in charge of the national team, Colaco has spent 12 successful years at the helm of Dempo, having previously enjoyed a long stint at Churchill Brothers.
Japan’s J.League: Unbeaten Vegalta dare to dream
Vegalta Sendai’s dream start to the season continued over the weekend as they stretched their lead at the top to five points. The club, who last year achieved a best-ever fourth-place finish despite the region being severely hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, easily overpowered in-form FC Tokyo 4-0. Nagoya Grampus remain second despite being held 1-1 by Sanfrecce Hiroshima, with Dragan Stojkovic’s charges heading a clutch of seven club separated by just two points.
Big game: Struggling champions Kashiwa Reysol are already 12 points from the top after falling to another defeat, this time 3-1 win against Vissel Kobe.
Headline-grabber: Korea Republic midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung is the surprise joint leader at the top of the goalscoring list alongside Sanfrecce’s Hisato Sato. However, Kim’s weekend brace proved in vain as Cerezo fell 3-2 to Kashima Antlers, with the troubled seven-time champions coming from 2-0 down to secure three much-needed points.
China PR's Super League: Four-star Guangzhou move top
It was a case of heavyweights proving their credentials in China, with defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande inflicting a 4-0 defeat on visiting Changchun Yatai, while four-time winners Shandong Luneng edged in-form Guangzhou R&F 2-1 at home. The results move Evergrande to the top of the standings at the expense of their city rivals, who slipped to third behind Jiangsu Saity, 1-0 victors against Shanghai Shenxin.
Big game: R&F travelled to Shandong seeking to prolong their impressive run this season but the hosts were 2-0 to the good by half-time through Lebanese international Roda Antar and Gilberto Macena, leaving Zhang Yuan’s late strike little more than consolation.
Headline-grabber: Having steered Evergrande to a 3-1 defeat of Kashiwa Reysol in their AFC Champions League outing last week, in-form forward Muriqui went on to again play an influential role as his side ran riot in a 4-0 win against Changchun. The Brazilian had a hand in three goals by providing two assists before sealing the triumph 11 minutes from time.
Brisbane Roar have set another benchmark in Australia by becoming the first club in the A-League era to win successive championships. Brisbane overturned a 1-0 second-half deficit against Perth Glory to win and, as was the case last year, the home side displayed their penchant for late drama. An own goal had Perth on target for an against-the odds victory only for the league’s leading scorer Besart Berisha to equalise with six minutes remaining. The Albanian striker then coolly slotted away a hotly disputed penalty to win the championship with what was effectively the last kick of the season.
In New Zealand, the finalists have been determined, with Auckland City - who finished top of the league standings - missing out on a second successive appearance in the decider. Cross-city rivals and reigning champions Waitakere United made light of a 1-0 first-leg deficit to overwhelm Canterbury 5-3 on aggregate with Ryan De Vries and Roy Krishna both scoring doubles. Their opponents in the finale will be Team Wellington, who stunned Oceanian champions Auckland in their own backyard, with promising youngster Dakota Lucas twice on the scoresheet in a 4-1 aggregate win.
It proved a modest weekend for the leading teams in Korea Republic, although Suwon Bluewings maintained their hold on the summit despite behind held to a goalless draw at Gyeongnam. Two points adrift are Jeju United, although the islanders were forced to rely on a last-gasp equaliser from Junior Santos to earn a draw at Seoul FC, who sit fourth. Ulsan Hyundai were the big winners after Maranhao's injury-time winner was enough to beat Incheon United and take them into third.
In Iran, Esteghlal missed the chance to reduce the gap on leaders Sepahan after being held to a 1-1 draw at Shahin as the finishing line looms. Sepahan's 2-1 victory at Foolad lifted the club, who are hunting a third successive title, three points clear with three rounds remaining. Meanwhile, Persepolis’ modest campaign continued, with the Tehran giants left in mid-table after being toppled 4-2 by Saipa in their Azadi Stadium.
In Thailand, champions Buriram United dropped their first points of the season after sharing the spoils with Royal Thai Army in a 1-1 home draw. Despite the disappointment, the 2012 AFC Champions League participants, with a match in hand, maintain a one-point lead over a trio of teams - Muang Thong United, Bangkok Glass and BEC Tero Sasana - level on 12 points.