Seoul (AFP) – Big-spending Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua were eliminated from the 2018 AFC Champions League with a game to spare on Tuesday after drawing 2-2 with Kashima Antlers of Japan at home.
Giovanni Moreno shot Shanghai ahead from the spot after 13 minutes and Mao Jianqing, an early replacement for injured striker Obafemi Martins headed home a second just before the half-hour.
But Yuma Suzuki and Leandro hit back for Kashima after the break to send the Japanese team into the knockout stages and Shanghai out of the tournament that sees 32 teams from around Asia divided into eight groups of four. Only the top two progress to the next round.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings stay second in Group H despite losing 4-1 at home to Sydney FC, a first win for the Australians in the tournament. Goals from Milos Ninkovic, Alex Brosque, Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo delivered the points for the A-League champions who now move into third with five points, two behind Suwon with the final group game taking place on April 17.
It was a disappointing evening all-round for China as seven-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande failed to seal their progress to the second stage after being held to a 1-1 draw with Buriram United in Thailand.
A first half-goal from Zheng Long looked to have given the Group G leaders and two-time winners the points in a hard-fought clash. The Thai champions were rewarded deep into injury time however as Yoon Jun-su fired home the equaliser.
Buriram move onto six points after five games to drop to third, two behind Cerezo Osaka in second. The Japanese team defeated Jeju United 2-1 to eliminate the South Koreans to ensure that a victory in the final group game at Guangzhou will be enough to move into the knockout stages.
– Late blow for Al Gharafa –
Meanwhile in West Asia, Al Gharafa’s bid to become the third side from Qatar to qualify for the last 16 phase came unstuck as they fell to a 3-2 defeat by the UAE’s Al Jazira in Doha.
The result confirmed the Emirati side’s spot in the knockouts from Group A where they join Saudi giants Al Ahli, who defeated Iran’s Tractorsazi 2-0 in Jeddah.
Qatar’s Al Duhail had earlier made the cut with two matches to spare and were joined by Al Sadd on Monday.
Al Gharafa were aiming for revenge after they were beaten by an identical scoreline when they clashed with Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi in the reverse fixture, but a brace from Ali Mabkhout, which included a goal in the fourth minute of second-half injury time, dashed their hopes.
The visitors took an early lead through Brazilian Romarinho in the 14th minute when he was left with an empty net after the ball dropped invitingly following a powerful shot from Mabkhout which rattled the woodwork.
Ahmed Alaaeldin restored parity for the hosts in the 28th minute, stabbing home a cross from Abdelaziz Hatem following a Wesley Sneijder free-kick.
Al Gharafa then took the lead in the last minute of the first half when Portuguese defender Diogo Amado superbly controlled Sneijder’s corner and fired home.
However, Al Jazira levelled in the 70th minute as Mabkhout made good of Romarinho’s pass and scored from a narrow angle through the legs of goalkeeper Qasem Burhan.
Al Gharafa were reduced to 10 men in added time after Assim Madibo received a second yellow card, and Al Jazira immediately took advantage as Mabkhout broke free and scored with just seconds remaining.
Sardor Mirzayev bagged a brace as Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv defeated UAE’s Al Wahda 4-1.
The result ended Al Wahda’s hopes, while Lokomotiv will host Zobahan next in a direct battle for the second spot from Group B after Al Duhail sealed their place at the top of the group.
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