AFC Champions League round-up

AFC Champions League: Timely strike from Cassio

March 24, 2010

Cassio's deflected free kick with eight minutes remaining saw Adelaide United fight back to beat ten-man Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-2 in a thrilling Asian Champions League contest at Hindmarsh Stadium on Wednesday.

The Reds, who finished at the foot of the A-League table this season, established a six-point cushion in Group H over third-placed Shandong Luneng, who lost 1-0 at Pohang Steelers, to remain on course for the knockout stages.

Travis Dodd opened the scoring for the 2008 finalists after 11 minutes. The Japanese visitors were reduced to ten men 13 minutes before the break when defender Ilian Stoyanov was shown a straight red card following a clumsy sliding challenge.

The Reds pressed to add to their lead before half-time but ten minutes after the break Sanfrecce were handed an equaliser as Kazuyuki Morisaki fired past Eugene Galekovic from the edge of the area following Robert Cornthwaite's poor clearance. And Sanfrecce continued to grow in confidence and took the lead with 15 minutes remaining as Issei Takayanagi flicked home Morisaki's free-kick.

But, two minutes later, Cornthwaite atoned for his earlier error by heading home Scott Jamieson's corner before substitute Cassio snatched a third consecutive three-point haul in the competition for his team.

In Pohang, the defending champions had goalkeeper Shin Hwa-yong to thank as the Steelers recorded a second consecutive win following their opening-day defeat in Australia with a victory over Shandong Luneng.

Noh Byung-joon's free-kick following Pohang's first attack opened the scoring at the Steelyard. With six minutes remaining Shandong had a chance to nick a point after Kim Jung-kyum brought down Daniel Benson but Shin's fingertip save denied substitute Deng Zhuoxiang from the penalty spot.

Japan's Kashima Antlers maintained a 100% record in the Asian Champions League with a 5-0 win over hapless Indonesian champions Persipura at Kashima Soccer Stadium.

Brazilian striker Marquinhos scored twice for the J. League champions as Kashima moved a step closer to the knockout stages, while Persipura have conceded 18 goals in three defeats in Group F.

With a landslide victory expected after Persipura lost 9-0 to China's Changchun Yatai two weeks ago, Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliveira opted for a three-pronged attack. But the home side had to wait until six minutes before the half-time to open the scoring as Toru Araiba's cross into the penalty area evaded everyone and found the back of the net.

Marquinhos' turning shot from close range doubled the lead in the last minute of the first half before captain Mitsuo Ogasawara confidently converted from the penalty spot six minutes after the hour mark. And just two minutes later Yuya Osako slid in at the back post to add the fourth as the home side ran riot before Marquinhos sealed the win with a close range finish with 14 minutes remaining.

With K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors beating Changchun 2-1 in China, Kashima remained three points clear at the top of the group but crucially six points clear of third place with three games remaining.

At Changchun Jingkai Stadium, South Korea striker Lee Dong-gook scored with five minutes remaining as Jeonbuk edged out Changchun to bounce back from their defeat by Kashima.

Substitute Du Zhenyu opened the scoring for the home side five minutes after the hour mark after firing home from the edge of the area. But just ten minutes later goalkeeper Mi Tianhe failed to deal with a corner and Choi Tae-uk stabbed home from close range from the ensuing scramble.

And with five minutes remaining Jeonbuk snatched all three points to remain in pole position to secure second place as Choi surged into the area before finding Lee with a smart pass for the former Middlesbrough striker to produce a calm close-range finish.

Zob Ahan went top of Group B in the Asian Champions League as two superb goals helped the Iranians stun Uzbekistan powerhouse Bunyodkor 3-0 at the Foolad Shahr Stadium.

Bunyodkor, one of the tournament favourites, had cruised through their opening two games but fell behind in the 36th minute. An incisive pass inside the full-back freed Hassan Ashjari down the left wing and his delightful cross was met by a fine sidefoot volley from Mohammad Hosseini six yards out at the back post.

Zob Ahan extended their lead in the 52nd minute when Mohammad Ghazi collected Ashjari's throw, advanced a few steps and unleashed a spectacular left-foot drive from 30 yards that dipped into the top corner, giving keeper Ignatiy Nesterov no chance at all. The Iranians then set the seal on an excellent victory when Ghasem Hadadifar slipped in Mohammad Khalatbari and he drilled home past Nesterov from 12 yards.

Last season's beaten finalists Al Ittihad registered their first win of the 2010 edition as goals from Abdelmalik Ziaya and Mohammed Noor clinched a 2-0 win over Al Wahda at Al Nahyan Stadium.

Ziaya put the Saudis in front after 17 minutes when he headed Noor's cross past keeper Adel Al Hosani. Al Wahda's Fernando Baiano saw an effort cleared off the line by Mishal Al Saeed in the 67th minute before Noor sealed the points for the visitors in stoppage time when he beat Al Hosani with a low finish following an exchange of passes with Hicham Aboucherouane.