Sendai, Al Fath assume pole positions
Derbies took the centre stage across Asia over the weekend, with the likes of Al Hilal, Urawa Reds and FK Ashgabat all lining up against their local rivals. With a number of upsets also unfolding, FIFA.com reviews the latest action across the continent.
Japanese J.League: Sendai return top
Having lost to FC Tokyo 1-0 in the previous fixture, Sanfrecce Hiroshima continued to drop points with a 1-1 draw against fourth-placed Jubilo Iwata, allowing Vegalta Sendai to edge them to the summit with a 2-1 home defeat of Kawasaki Frontale. Urawa Reds, meanwhile, missed the chance to join Sendai on points after being held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Omiya Ardija.
Big game: Kyohei Noborizato latched on to Kengo Nakamura's cross to open the scoring for Kawasaki, but Naoya Tamura drew the hosts level by breaking his league duck on 56 minutes. With so much at stake, Ryang Yong Gi sealed the win for Sendai with a sublimely-taken free-kick seven minutes later.
Headline-grabber: The much-anticipated Saitama derby saw Omiya, despite languishing second from bottom, earn a share of the spoils at the high-flying Urawa. A goal down and a man short, the visitors stunned even their own supporters when Keigo Higashi scored from their first shot of the game in first-half injury-time to salvage an unlikely point.
Saudi Arabian Professional League: Brazilian imports on target
Al Fath continued to take the season by storm, stunning defending champions Al Shabab 4-2 to move top with four wins and a draw from the opening five rounds. Also undefeated so far are Al Ittihad, who climbed to second place with a 2-0 defeat at Hajr with Naif Hazazi scoring the match-winner with a last-minute strike. Al Wehda and Al Faysali, with a point each so far, are left still seeking their first win after losing to Al Shoala and Al Ahli respectively.
Big game: Al Hilal's Brazilian new signing Wesley completed a brace, including scoring the winner, as the 13-time Saudi champions won the Riyadh derby against Al Nasr 3-1.
Headline-grabber: Al Fath also had their Brazilian import Elton to thank as the former Corinthians midfielder scored in each half as his side shocked Al Shabab.
In China PR, with the majority of clubs enjoying a two-week break, a pair of strugglers in Henan Construction and Shanghai Shenxin took the centre stage battling for their hopes of avoiding relegation. The former remain rooted to the bottom despite edging Shandong Luneng 2-1 at home, while the latter moved beyond the relegation zone after twice coming from behind to draw Changchun Yatai 2-2.
In Singapore, a two-goal first-half quick-fire from striking veteran Aleksandar Duric handed Tampines Rovers a 2-0 defeat of Home United, a result which enabled them to return to the top at the expense of Albirex Niigata. Third-placed DPMM Brunei missed the chance to close on the top two with a 1-1 draw against Gombak United, but Harimau Muda moved into fourth after beating Singapore Armed Forces 4-1, with Ahmad Hazwan completing a treble.
In Turkmenistan, the eye-catching top-of-the-table duel between leaders FK Merw and Balkan Balkanabat ended in unexpected fashion, with the former conceding seven unanswered goals. Despite the defeat, FK Merw remain at the summit with a seven-point cushion ahead of the defending champions, who have a match in hand. ITTU Ashgabat, meanwhile, ran out 3-0 victory over city rivals FK Ashgabat to move into third.
In Hong Kong, traditional heavyweights got off to winning starts in the season curtain-raisers over the weekend. Notably defending champions Kitchee won comfortably 3-0 at Sun Hei with Regueiro twice on target, while last season's third-place finishers South China defeated debutants Yokohama in a 5-2 goal-thriller. NTR WF Tai Po produced the opening day's biggest surprise, rallying from behind three times to draw 3-3 at Sun Pegasus, last term’s runners-up.