Favourites dominate as octet complete line-up
AFC Champions League group stage finalised
Two former winners among eight teams advancing from play-offs
Group stage commences 4 March
The composition of the AFC Champions League group stage was finalised on Tuesday as eight teams advanced from the third and final preliminary round.
It was a strong night for the favoured teams, especially in the east region where all four seeded teams advanced aided by home advantage.
Headlining the octet were holders and 2018 FIFA Club World Cup participants Kashima Antlers who saw off Newcastle Jets after dominating the second half for a 4-1 win.
Ulsan Hyundai and Shandong Luneng had little trouble dispensing with Perak and Hanoi respectively with 5-1 and 4-1 victories.
Sanfreece Hiroshima completed the quartet but they needed a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win to advance past brave Thailand side Chiangrai United following 120 scoreless minutes.
Matters were less clear cut in the latter action on the west half of the continent where two clubs survived a second successive knockout tie with impressive away wins.
Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor edged UAE’s Al Nasr 2-1 as big-name signing Alvaro Negredo had a costly penalty miss for the home side.
The match of the evening, however, was in Doha as Iran’s Zobahan came from two goals down at half-time to collect a famous 3-2 victory over Al Gharafa.
Completing the line-up were Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr who eased past Uzbekistan’s AGMK 4-0, and Qatar’s Al Rayyan who needed late goals to edge Saipa with a 3-1 scoreline.