The eight remaining Group Stage places in the 2015 AFC Champions League were decided yesterday, after 25 teams across the continent vied for qualification to Asia’s most prestigious club tournament. Football Channel Asia gives you a run-down of the preliminary and play-off rounds as we look towards the group stages, kicking off next week.
Preliminary Round 1
India’s newest side, Bengaluru FC, joined a trio of Southeast Asian clubs to open this year’s AFC Champions League, bringing over 38,000 people to stadiums in football-mad Myanmar and Malaysia and the large crowds in both nations were rewarded with extra time action.
Yadanarbon 1-1 (5-6p) Warriors
(Y.W. Aung 102′ / Andy Ahmad 99′)
Myanmar was the host of the first qualifying match of the tournament and over 21,000 locals went to Mandalarthiri Stadium to watch the Myanmar National League champions face off against Singapore’s S-League champions, Warriors FC. A scoreless 90 minutes and two first half extra time goals saw the Warriors pushed to a penalty shootout, winning the affair after defender Si Thu Aung failed to convert.
Johor Darul Ta’zim 2-1 aet Bengaluru
(Harun 47′, Chanthuru 97′ / Lyngdoh 90′)
Malaysian Super League champions JDT hosted ACL debutants Bengaluru, who claimed their first Indian league title in their inaugural season. The newcomers, captained by Indian star Sunil Chhetri, pushed the Johor-based side and scored a late equaliser to Hariss Harun’s opener, but fell to a goal by Chanthuru Suppiah in extra time. The Blues will instead compete in the 2015 AFC Cup for their first venture into continental group stage football.
Preliminary Round 2
West Asian teams kick started their qualifying campaigns, while in the East round one winners JDT and Warriors FC were looking to keep their dreams of ACL qualification alive.
Hanoi T&T 4-0 Persib Bandung
(Marronkle 34′ 57, Samson 47′ 71′)
Last year’s V-League runners up Hanoi T&T were looking to make use of their home ground advantage and just after the half hour mark were gifted the chance to do just that when Dias Angga Putra brought down Do Duy Manh inside the box. Argentinean Gonzalo Marronkle stepped up and made no mistake to give Hanoi T&T the lead. They doubled their lead early in the second half when Marronkle headed Ngueyn Van Quyet’s cross against the post, rebounding perfectly for naturalised Vietnamese striker Hoang Vu Samson to tap home. Ten minutes later Marronkle had a third when he glided through the Persib defence to smash home his second. The rout was completed 20 minutes from time when Samson headed home from close range.
Guangzhou R&F 3-0 Warriors FC
(Zhipeng 52′, Jang HS 60′, Shuo 75′)
In what many expected would be a one-sided affair, Guangzhou had to wait 52 minutes before they broke the deadlock. They did so in fine style, with Jiang Zhipeng volleying home from the edge of the box. It was another volley, this time from Korean international Jang Hyun-soo, that doubled their lead on the hour mark after the Warriors defence failed the clear the cross from the right. Fifteen minutes later Michel let fly from outside the box only for the ball to smash off the crossbar, fortuitously falling in the path of Zhang Shuo who tapped home the third.
Chonburi FC 4-1 Kitchee
(Leandro 8′ 38′ 55′, Nurul 26′ / Emmet Chun Wan 34′)
The Thai side took an early lead when Nurul Sriyarngem was played in behind the defence, toe-poking the ball away from the keeper, allowing Leandro an easy tap in after just eight minutes. The Kitchee defence was caught hopelessly out of shape 20 minutes later, allowing Krirkrit Thaweekarn acres of time and space to pick out Nurul who coolly finished past Guo Jiangqiao. Kitchee pulled one back ten minutes later when the Chonburi defence failed to clear a cross, allowing Emmet Chun Wan to pounce on the loose ball in the box.
Just minutes later, however, Chonburi restored their two goal lead when a looping header from Leandro caught Jiangqiao off his line. The Brazilian secured his hattrick ten minutes into the second half after getting in behind the Kitchee defence after a delightful pass from Nurul, securing the Sharks’ progression to the final round of qualifying.
Bangkok Glass 3-0 Johor Darul Ta’zim
(Narong 28′, Kaimbi 52′ 62′)
A spectacular long range strike from Narong Jansawek gave the home side the lead midway through the first half. Receiving the ball about 35 yards out the midfielder took a touch before unleashing a rocket that gave Farizal no chance. Namibian striker Lazarus Kaimbi scored a quickfire brace early in the second half, his second a well worked play that saw Leandro get in behind the defence before delivering an inch perfect cross for Kaimbi to knock home. The home side should have made it four when Thanasit Siriphala was bought down in the box just minutes later, but Macedonian Darko Tasevski put his spot kick over the bar.
El Jaish 2-1 Al Nahda
(Ribeiro 78′, Romarinho 90’+2 / Ould Voulany 4′)
Little was expected of Omani side Al Nahda before the match, yet they surprised everyone when they took an early lead through Ely Ould Voulany, thanks in no small part to poor keeping from Saoud Mubarak. It was a lead which they would hold until half time. Time ticked on and it looked as though the Omani side were on the verge of a major upset, but up stepped Brazilian substitute Vagner Ribeiro who curled in a beautiful free kick that just evaded the outstretched hand of Sulaiman Al Breiki in goal. And just as we looked leaded for extra time it was another Brazilian, Romarinho, who sealed the game for the Qatari side after Montassar Lahfidhi’s poor attempted clearance fell to Romarinho to smash home in injury time.
Al Qadsia 1-0 Al Wehdat
(Dharil Said 52′)
Defending AFC Cup champions Al Qadsia edged Jordanian side Al Wehdat thanks to a 59th minute goal from Dhari Said. Said caught the Al Wehdat defence out of shape and drifted into space on the right wing, crossing the ball into the box looking for Ivan Nagaev, but neither the striker nor the defence could get anything on the cross, catching the keeper out and allowing the ball to drift in at the back post to seal the Kuwaitis progression to the final round playoff.
Al Sadd 0-0 (11-10 pen) Al Riffa
In a game of few chances it took the dreaded penalty shootout to split Qatar’s Al Sadd, the 2011 ACL champions, and Bahrain’s Al Riffa. Brazilian Ozia De-Pola got Al Riffa off to the worst start possible, missing his first penalty to give the advantage to Al Sadd. The Qataris handed it right back, however, when Ibrahim Majid also missed. It then went goal-for-goal before the respective goalkeepers had to step up, with both keepers converting their spot kicks. De-Pola capped off a horror shootout by also missing his second penalty which handed the win to the Qatari side.
The third and final playoff round featured a number of teams who would have qualified for the group stage automatically under the previous format, such as Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol, South Korea’s FC Seoul, and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli.
Bunyodkor 2-1 Al-Jazira
(Shodiev 23’, Mabkhout 45+3’ (pen), Rashidov 52’)
The Uzbek side clinched their eighth straight ACL appearance after overcoming the UAE club. Al-Jazira scorer Ali Mabkhout and game-winner Sardor Rashidov both demonstrated the form that garnered attention in last month’s AFC Asian Cup, with Mabkhout nearly bringing his side level for a second time in the 66th minute with a fantastic run.
A late red card saw the Emirati outfit reduced to 10 men, leaving Bunyodkor set for a showdown in Riyadh against Al Nassr next Tuesday.
Naft Tehran 1-0 El Jaish
Iranian starlet Amir Motahari was the lone goal-scorer for Naft Tehran, who only made their Iran Pro League debut in 2010. Following a scoreless first half, the 21-year-old was unmarked when he headed in Iman Mobali’s cross.
Naft will make their ACL group stage debut in a group that features Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab, and UAE’s Al-Ain.
Al-Wahda 4-4 aet (4-5p) Al-Sadd
(Diaz 8′, Omar 72′, Al-Shehhi 92′, Matar 108′ / Yusef 55′, Khalfan 66′,90+8′,98′)
A lengthy spell of additional time and a Khalfan Ibrahim hattrick was enough for Qatar’s Al-Sadd to come from a goal down to fight off Arabian Gulf League runners-up Al-Wahda and edge the Emiratis in a narrow penalty shootout win.
The Emir of Qatar Cup champions join Group C in their attempt to repeat their 2011 ACL victory and lift another title.
Al-Ahli 2-1 aet Al-Qadsia
(Al-Soma 85′ (pen), Al-Bassas 115′ / Al-Motawaa 33′)
Despite leading for a large portion of the game, a penalty call in the 83rd minute saw Khaled Al-Qahtani sent off and Al-Qadsia concede a late equaliser converted Syrian striker Omar Al-Soma. The goal gave Saudi Arabian giants Al-Ahli the chance to secure the win in extra time against the 10-man Kuwaiti champions.
FC Seoul 7-0 Ha Noi T&T
(Yun Il-lok 14’, Everton Santos 20’, Jung Jo-gook 29’ 46’, Sergio Escudero 40’, Lee Seok-hyun 70’, Koh Myong-jin 72’)
The 2014 semi finalists may have needed a miraculous result in the final round of the 2014 K League Classic to qualify for this playoff, but they rarely needed to get into second gear against a clearly outmatched T&T side.
Seoul won’t have much time to celebrate as they’ll begin their ACL campaign in one of East Asia’s most intimidating atmospheres when they visit Tianhe Stadium to face Guangzhou Evergrande.
Kashiwa Reysol 2-2 (3-2 AET) Chonburi FC
(Taketomi 8’, Assumpcao 10’, Leandro 58’ (pen) 116’, Kroekrit 64’)
Despite a valiant effort, Chonburi FC will miss out on the group stage for the first time since 2008 after falling to 2013 semifinalists Reysol in two hours of cold and rain-soaked play.
Kosuke Taketomi’s early goal was cancelled out two minutes later when Leandro Assumpcao capitalised on a defensive error to equalise. The same pattern repeated after Reysol striker Leandro’s penalty kick was nullified by Kroekrit Thaweekarn’s effort. After 120 minutes it was Leandro’s late goal that saved the day for Reysol, who recorded 53 shots to Chonburi’s seven.
Beijing Guoan 3-0 Bangkok Glass
(Son Boxuan 17’, Batalia 64’ (pen) 73’)
Beijing Guoan celebrated the Lunar New Year in style with a convincing win over Thai challengers Bangkok Glass. The Southeast Asian side struggled in the cold conditions at Worker’s Stadium, which boasted the second-largest crowd of the night with over 21,000 fans in attendance.
Son Boxuan scored the decider for Guoan, with Argentine midfielder Pablo Batalla adding two more for good measure in the second half on the way to ensuring that China will be represented by a full compliment of four clubs.
Central Coast Mariners 1-3 Guangzhou R&F
(Jiang Ning 8’, Lu Lin 57’, Rose 89’ (OG), Trifiro 90+2’)
In the only home loss in the East block, the A-League representatives were humbled by a determined R&F side. Jiang Ning set the tone early with his eighth-minute goal, and Lu Lin seemingly put a comeback beyond reach for Mariners before the hour mark.
Things went from bad to worse for Central Coast fans when Joshua Rose’s back pass led to an own-goal, but Glen Trifiro managed a consolation goal with a free kick deep into additional time to give the crowd of just over 2,600 something to cheer about.