Capital clubs, derbies in the spotlight
New leaders hold down pole position in two of Asia’s biggest leagues, with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and FC Seoul now sitting pretty in Japan and Korea Republic respectively. The Osaka and Tashkent derbies ended with honours even, while it was a poor round for capital clubs in China PR and Iran. FIFA.com’s weekly review of Asian club football also takes in the latest from Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
Japan’s J.League: Sanfrecce shine among stumbling elite
After a string of poor results, Sanfrecce Hiroshima secured three important points with a 2-1 victory over Omiya Ardija as the other leading contenders all stumbled. Kohei Shimizu's goal four minutes into the second half proved the difference as Sanfrecce moved two points clear of Vegalta who tumbled to a surprise 2-1 loss at bottom side Consadole Sapporo. Kashiwa Reysol’s recent good form took a turn for the worse, with the champions now five points off the pace after being held against FC Tokyo. Fourth-placed Urawa Red Diamonds also lost ground with a 1-0 defeat by Vissel Kobe.
Big game: Shimizu S-Pulse edged out Nagoya Grampus 3-2 as one the major forces of recent years continues to endure some erratic form. Nagoya, last season’s runners-up and 2010 champions, have now fallen eight points from top spot.
Headline-grabber: Two names hogged the headlines as the Osaka derby finished all square. Takuma Edamura twice put Cerezo into the lead, only for Gamba to peg back on both occasions through Akihiro Sato.
Korea Republic’s K-League: Seoul on top, Jeonbuk slip
FC Seoul moved into top spot after a dramatic 3-2 win at Seongnam Chunma, while Jeonbuk Motors were held to a goalless draw with Busan I’Park. Pohang Steelers twice came from behind to claim a 4-3 victory at Chunnam Dragons, who fell to the bottom after their fourth straight defeat. Meanwhile, Jeju United lost again to south-western rivals Gwangju, who revived their hopes of finishing in the top half of the table with a 2-0 win over the islanders.
Big game: It seemed like an easy win for Seoul when Dejan Damjanovic put the visitors ahead early on, but Seongnam fought back through second-half goals from Javier Reina and Yoon Bitgaram. With only two minutes remaining, however, Mauricio Molina restored parity, before turning provider for Damjanovic’s winner deep into added time.
Headline-grabber: Chunnam coach Jung Hae-Sung had stepped down just before the seven-goal thriller against Pohang, and ironically, his successor turned out to be a former Steeler. Ha Seok-Ju was appointed to the helm on Monday.
China PR's Super League: Guangzhou stay clear as chasers draw
Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande survived a late scare as they secured a 3-2 victory at Hangzhou Greentown, a result which maintained their place at the summit with a three-point margin. Meanwhile, it proved to be a lacklustre weekend for the chasing pack. Second-placed Jiangsu Sainty missed the chance to edge closer to the leaders in claiming a goalless draw at Liaoning Whowin, while third-placed Guizhou Renhe also shared the spoils with the same scoreline at home against Changchun Yatai. Also finishing goalless were Didier Drogba's Shanghai Shenhua, with the Ivorian striker close to scoring a late winner at Tianjin Teda.
Big match: Beijing Guoan arrived at Jinan seeking their first win at Shandong Luneng for five seasons. It was, however, the home side that continued their run with a 4-0 defeat of the capital club. Wang Yongpo, nicknamed 'China's Rooney', and Lv Zheng each scored a brace as Shandong cruised past the visitors.
Headline-grabber: Peter Utaka continued his prolific form with Dalian Aerbin, opening the scoring in their 2-1 win at Henan Construction to become the first player to score in eight successive matches in the C-League. With 13 goals so far, the Nigerian striker has edged Guangzhou's Muriqui into second on the league's scoring-chart.
There was a titanic clash in Uzbekistan, with traditional Tashkent heavyweights Pakhtakor entertaining leaders and defending champions, Bunyodkor. Stanislav Andreyev struck a second-half penalty to cancel out Shavkat Salomov's early opener as the hosts escaped defeat. Despite the 1-1 draw, Bunyodkor are still a point clear of nearest challengers Nasaf, who put three unanswered goals past struggling Bukhara. Pakhtakor are a further three points adrift in third.
Traditional powerhouses continued to flounder in the fledging Iranian season, with Tehran duo Persepolis and Esteghlal again dropping points. The former suffered their second loss in four matches with a 2-0 home defeat to Saba Battery, while the latter were held to a goalless draw at Mes. Meanwhile, 2010 AFC Champions League runners-up Zob Ahan are still searching for their first point after losing 4-0 at home to leaders Sepahan.
In Saudi Arabia, Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue netted a hat-trick as holders Al Shabab won 3-1 against Al Faysali to stay perfect after two opening rounds. Trailing by two points are a trio of chasers, with Al Nasr, Al Ittihad and Al Fath all prevailing in their respective matches. Notably, Fath stunned heavyweights Al Hilal 2-1, while Nasr routed Al Raed 4-0 at home.
In Thailand, runaway leaders Muang Thong United twice came from behind to edge Pattaya United 3-2 as they hold down a 12-point lead over Chonburi, who defeated Police United 1-0 with Arthit Sunthornpit scoring the only goal. However, it was defending champions Buriram PEA who grabbed the headlines over the weekend with a sparkling 7-2 rout of Chainat FC, thanks largely to an Ekkachai Sumrei treble.