Contrasting emotions for Asian giants
Title races intensified all across Asia throughout the weekend, with a series of defending champions earning mixed results. K-League champions Jeonbuk Motors got their title-defence back on track thanks to a sixth win in as many games, while Chinese holders Guangzhou Evergrande cemented their lead atop the Super League table with victory. However, there was disappointment elsewhere, with Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol and Thai title-holders Buriram PEA both dropping points in their respective fixtures. Join FIFA.com as we take a look back at this week’s action in Asia’s top leagues.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Goal-rush strikes as Jeonbuk go top
The 17th round of the K-League witnessed no fewer than 29 goals scored in eight games - a season high and second only to the all-time record of 32. Jeonbuk Motors climbed to the top of the table on the back of a six-match winning streak, as the reigning champions defeated Gyeongnam 5-3 at home. Hot on their heels are Suwon Bluewings, though, who defeated Gangwon 4-1 to move into second place on goal difference.
Big game: Few would have expected so many goals in Saturday’s south-western derby between Gwangju and Chunnam, but the hosts took an unlikely five-goal lead in the first half after two goals each from Park Min and Kim Dong-Sub and another from captain Kim Eun-Sun. Joao Paulo then made it 6-0 with an assist from Lee Seung-Gi, who set up three goals on the day.
Headline-grabber: Jeonbuk forward Lee Dong-Gook struck three times, recording his fifth career hat-trick against Gyeongnam to move into pole position in the scoring chart with a league-leading 11 goals.
China PR's Super League: Guangzhou move further clear
Runaway leaders Guangzhou Evergrande maintained their impressive form under newly appointed coach Marcello Lippi, with a 3-0 victory at Liaoning Whowin leaving them with a seven-point cushion at the summit. Among the chasing pack are Beijing Guoan and Guangzhou R&F, who suffered their first home defeats of the season. In the process, the capital side lost to Jiangsu Sainty 1-0, allowing the visitors to edge into second place on goal difference. R&F, meanwhile, slipped to fourth after losing a seesaw battle to bottom side Qingdao Jonoon 3-2.
Big game: Liaoning had proved to be one of Guangzhou's toughest opponents last season, with the latter narrowly avoiding defeat in a 1-1 draw in their second meeting. And although it had been expected to be an evenly-contested game, it was all one-way traffic in the favour of Guangzhou, with goals from Jiang Ning, Gao Lin and Dario Conca giving the defending champions an emphatic win.
The headline-grabber: R&F welcomed Qingdao with an unblemished home record, having won all seven of their home games to date, including shock defeats of city rivals Guangzhou and Beijing. However, their amazing home form was finally brought to an end by Qingdao, who came from behind to overcome the hosts for only their third win of the season.
Japan's J-League: Top two remain unchanged
There were few shake-ups at the weekend in the J-League, with five of the nine matches ending in stalemates. Leaders Vegalta Sendai and nearest chasers Sanfrecce Hiroshima were both held to goalless draws by Urawa Red and Omiya Ardija respectively, but the duo nonetheless kept their place at the top of the standings. Reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol, meanwhile, were left languishing in 11th place after escaping a home defeat against Kashima Antlers, with an injury-time goal from Naoya Kondo salvaging them a point in a 1-1 draw.
Big match: Newly-promoted FC Tokyo continued to make splash in their first season back in the top flight as they beat Cerezo Osaka 2-0 at home to move up to fifth place. Aria Jasuru Hasegawa opened the scoring for the hosts on the hour-mark, while Lucas sealed the victory 14 minutes from time.
Headline-grabber: Gamba Osaka produced the round’s biggest win, hitting four unanswered goals past hosts Consadole Sapporo in a strugglers' meeting. The result moved Gamba up to third-bottom, above Albirex Niigata on goal difference, while Sapporo remain rooted in last with just four points from 15 matches.
In Uzbekistan, Lutfulla Turayev and Jovlon Ibrokhimov scored in each half as pacesetters Bunyodkor narrowly won 2-1 at Nefchi Fergana. The triumph maintained the defending champions' place at the summit - two points clear of Nasaf, who beat Metallurg Bekabad with Artur Gevorkyan the only man on target. Pakhtakor are not far behind, though, as they overcame Nawbahor Namangan 2-1 to move within a point of Nasaf.
In Thailand, with runaway leaders Muang Thong United inactive over the weekend, most eyes turned to the meeting between two of the teams chasing them: defending champions Buriram PEA and Chonburi. And the local fans were not let down in what turned out to be a 4-3 goal-thriller, with Chonburi battling back from behind to move into second at the hosts' expense. Muang Thong still enjoy a seven-point lead at the top, but both Chonburi and Buriram have a game in hand.
In Singapore, DPMM Brunei were handed their third defeat this season as they lost 2-1 to Armed Forces at home, allowing holders and runners-up Tampines Rovers to move level on points with them after a 3-1 victory over Balestier Khalsa. However, it is Brunei who maintained their lead on goal difference over Home United and Albirex Niigata, both of whom prevailed at Gombak United and Tanjong Pagar respectively to share third place.