Renowned kings crowned in Iran, Oceania
Despite being separated by a vast distance Iran’s Sepahan and New Zealand’s Auckland City shared a common theme over the weekend as they continued a stranglehold on silverware in their respective regions. Sepahan survived a nervy finale for a third successive Iranian title, while Auckland City retained their OFC O-League crown for a fourth wins overall.
Meanwhile, the frontrunners in Japan and China PR endured similarly tough weekends, while it was a very different scenario in Korea Republic. FIFA.com wraps up a diverse weekly review with a look at the latest from Thailand and Qatar.
Iran’s Pro-League: Sepahan crowned again
Sepahan survived a tense conclusion to claim a third successive title and become the most successful Iranian club of the past decade. The Isfahan side held a three-point lead going into the final day knowing a point would secure their fourth title overall. While they did just that it proved a less than glamorous finale, managing only a goalless draw with bottom club Mes Sarcheshme. Sepahan’s hard-won point meant that wins for second and third-placed teams - Teraktor-Sazi and Esteghlal - proved inconsequential.
Big game: A disastrous season for Persepolis at least ended in wining fashion with a 2-1 scoreline at Foolad leaving the Tehran giants in 12th place, just four positions above the relegation zone.
Headline grabber: Had Sepahan failed to hang on for their priceless point, it would have been Arash Borhani hogging all the headlines. The striker’s double was to no avail in terms of the title, despite Esteghlal overpowering city rivals Naft Tehran with a 3-0 scoreline.
Japan’s J.League: Vegalta stumble again
Late equalisers proved the theme for the frontrunners as Vegalta Sendai and Shimizu S-Pulse both came from a goal down to secure 1-1 draws. Vegalta needed a goal from Shingo Akamine to draw against Gamba Osaka and maintain their two-point lead over Shimizu, who had Alex Brosque to thank for his injury-time equaliser against Cerezo Osaka.
Big game: Struggling champions Kashiwa Reysol finally returned to form with a 2-0 victory at Kawasaki Frontale to snap a four-match winless run.
Headline-grabber: Third-placed Sanfrecce Hiroshima were the latest victims of in-form Yokohama F Marinos, who have now won four on the trot after their 3-1 win on the road. The home side did have something to savour, however, with midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama scoring with an incredible 60-metre effort.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Four leaders in three days
FC Seoul briefly took over pole position thanks to a thrilling 1-0 victory at Gyeongnam, after leaders Ulsan Horangi had stumbled to a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Jeonbuk Motors a day earlier. However, Sunday saw Jeju United leapfrog into first place with a 4-2 win over Gangwon in the afternoon, only for Suwon Bluewings to return to the summit by beating Gwangju 4-1 at home in the late match. Meanwhile, Seongnam Chunma climbed to eighth with a 1-0 win at home against struggling Incheon United, with Han Sang-Wun netting the winner in the 88th minute.
Big game: Reigning champions Jeonbuk took on Ulsan in a replay of last season’s championship final in Jeonju. The hosts took an early lead through South American duo Eninho and Hugo Droguett, but the visitors pulled a goal back through Lee Keun-Ho to ensure a nervy finale.
Headline-grabber: Former Gyeongnam centre-back Kim Ju-Young made an unwelcome return to Changwon for the first time since his controversial move to Seoul during the winter. But it hardly mattered for the capital club as Dejan Damjanovic headed home the winner deep into stoppage time.
The OFC O-League crowned its 2012 champions with Auckland City retaining their title thanks to a 1-0 win in Tahiti against final debutants AS Tefana. Manel Exposito’s first-half goal added to a 2-1 first-leg advantage, although the dismissal of Alex Feneridis saw the New Zealanders under significant pressure in the latter stages of the contest in Papeete.
The next edition of Oceania’s elite club competition commenced a few days prior to the final with the inaugural staging of a preliminary play-off between representatives of four Polynesian nations. Cook Islands outfit Tupapa Maraerenga eventually prevailed against the champions of American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga only to then fail in their bid to reach the group stage with a 3-1 loss against experienced New Caledonia campaigners AS Mont Dore.
It proved a weekend of upsets in China PR with a series of unexpected results for the elite teams. Leaders Guangzhou Evergrande were dealt just their second defeat in losing 3-1 at Dalian Shide, with the result allowing city rivals Guangzhou R&F to reduce the gap to one point on the back of their 2-1 home win against Henan Construction. Third-placed Jiangsu Sainty continued their losing streak falling 2-1 at home to Changchun Yatai, while the much-anticipated Shanghai derby saw the strongly-favoured Shenhua held to a goalless draw by ten-man Shenxin, with Nicolas Anelka denied a winner by the upright.
In Thailand, national team striker Teerasil Dangda struck the match-winner as Muang Thong United continued their undefeated run with 2-1 home victory over Thai Army. The result maintained their place at the top of the standings and a three-point cushion ahead of BEC Tero Sasana, who thrashed Bangkok Glass 3-0 courtesy of Cleiton's hat-trick. Champions Buriram United are seven points off the pace but with three matches in hand.
Al Gharafa concluded a disappointing season on a bright note by winning the Emir Cup in Qatar 4-3 on penalties against reigning Asian champions Al Sadd. Fuhaid Al Shammeri converted the winning spot kick to give Gharafa their seventh Emir Cup and ensure the 2011 AFC Champions League winners will again miss out on continental action.