The fourth matchday of the AFC Champions League featured a hotly-contested rematch of last year’s semi-final as well as a pair of dramatic victories by Japanese clubs.
Western Sydney Wanderers 1-1 FC Seoul
(12′ Bulut / 72′ Go YH)
The second meeting of last year’s Eastern semi-finalists ended in another draw following goals by Kerem Bulut and Go Yo-han.
Bulut’s 12th-minute effort from close range sent the Parramatta crowd into a frenzy and gave the defending Asian champions confidence, leading to several more chances that sadly went wasted.
A rejuvenated Seoul came out of the half time locker room at took the match to Wanderers, creating several opportunities of their own. They found the equaliser in the 72nd minute when Go coolly slotted Everton Santos’ low cross into the net.
Bulut and his team mates kept Seoul goalkeeper Kim Yong-dae under pressure in the dying minutes of the match.
Bit was Wanderers netminder Ante Covic who drew the most attention with his controversial injury time save when the ball appeared to cross the goal line.
The referee didn’t whistle for a goal, however, and the 39-year-old was spared blushes as both teams walked off the pitch with a point.
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Guangzhou Evergrande
(19′ Endo (PG), 90+4′ Takasaki / 74′ Elkeson)
Struggling Antlers upset the 2013 champions on a rainy night at Kashima Stadium thanks to a dramatic stoppage time goal.
A dreary result seemed in the cards for the winless hosts against undefeated Evergrande, but Yasushi Endo flipped the script with his 19th-minute penalty kick after former J-Leaguer Kim Young-gwon was cited for a handball.
The lead held for nearly an hour, but the visitors seemed confident of claiming at least a point when Elkeson, denied previously when his first half free kick was parried away, tapped in Gao Lin’s cross.
The stage was set for a dramatic finish and Antlers delivered, with substitute Hiroyuki Takasaki heading in Gaku Shibasaki’s free kick in what would be the last play of the match.
Evergrande remain at the top of Group H with nine points, while Antlers will need wins against Seoul and at Wanderers if they hope to break through to the knockout stage.
Seongnam FC 0-0 Guangzhou R&F
A scoreless draw saw Seongnam draw even with Buriram United atop the Group F leaderboard with seven points from four games.
In a first half dotted with chances, neither side found a solid advantage and the match seem destined to be decided in the final 45 minutes of play.
Hwang Ui-jo appeared to score the first goal of the night in the 70th minute, but the youngster was declared offside.
Another chance for Hwang went wasted in the 88th minute when he sent a header wide despite plenty of open space in front of the goal.
With four points from four matches, R&F are still in contention for a knockout tournament berth.
Buriram United 1-2 Gamba Osaka
(8′ Bunmathan / 40′ Lins, 87′ Omori)
A shocking late goal at the Thunder Castle kept Gamba Osaka in contention for a spot in the Round of 16.
Undefeated Buriram pressured the visitors early, with Theerathon Bunmathan scoring early with a vicious corner kick that curved inside the far post.
Gamba equalized with five minutes to go before halftime when Brazilian striker Lins capitalized on an opportunity from close range.
Both sides fought hard for the game-winner over the next 50 minutes of play but it was Kotaro Omori who would be the hero of the day with a perfectly-placed half-volley served up by teammate Koki Yonekura.
Tractor Sazi 2-2 Al Ahli (KSA)
(59′ Edinho, 77′ Saghebi / 73′ 90′ Al Soma)
An eventful 2-2 draw kept Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli on top of Group D.
Tractor striker Edinho was the first to find the back of the net after his left-footed shot was deflected into the met, making amends for a wasted chance just moments earlier.
The visitors levelled through a tremendous physical effort by Syrian forward Omar Al Soma, who fought off a defender before striking from close range.
Tractor took the lead just three minutes later after midfielder Shahin Saghebi headed in a corner kick to the delight of those in attendance at Yadegar Emam Stadium.
The home crowd would leave disappointed, however, when Al Soma delivered a second goal on 90 minutes, leaving the Iranian side at the bottom of the group with four points.
Nasaf 0-1 Al Ahli (UAE)
(81′ Everton Ribeiro)
Everton Ribeiro waited until late to give Al Ahli a crucial win, boosting them into second place in Group D.
The visitors missed a great chance to go up before half time after Ahmed Khalil dribbled around goalkeeper Eldorbek Suyunov before sending his effort into the side netting.
Nasaf responded before the 60 minute mark when captain Artur Gevorkyan forced a save by Al Ahli goalkeeper Ahmed Mahmoud.
In the 81st minute Everton Ribeiro broke the deadlock when his shot deflected off a defender and past Suyunov for the lone goal of the match.
Al Ain 1-1 Pakhtakor
(20′ Kembo-Ekoko / 45+2′ Sergeev)
Two first-half goals saw Al Ain and Pakhtakor settle for a point each on Tuesday night.
Congolese striker Jires Kembo-Ekoko beat out Pakhtakor goalkeeper Alexander Lobanov for the first goal of the match.
The visitors responded on the verge of half time thanks to Igor Sergeev’s header off of Aleksandr Merzlaykov’s cross.
The Uzbeks side seemed keen for a game-winner early the second half, but though Al Ain eventually dominated they were unable to turn their momentum into another goal.
Al Shabab 0-3 Naft Tehran
(57′ Amiri, 83′ Motahari, 90′ Aliari)
Naft Tehran dominated the hosts with three second-half goals to rise to the top of Group B.
With nearly an hour elapsed in the match, Vahid Amiri opened scoring with a strong left-footed strike.
Al Shabab struggled to come up with a response, allowing additional goals in the final seven minutes from 22-year-old Amir Motahari and a final header by Reza Aliyari.
The result leaves the Saudi side in need of a miracle to escape the group stage, while Naft can clinch a Round of 16 spot with a win against Pakhtakor later this month.