AFC Champions League
AFC Champions League

Japanese duo Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol as well as Korea Republic’s Seongnam FC, Iranian pair Persepolis and Naft Tehran as well as Qatar’s Lekhwiya all claimed wins in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League this week to edge closer to a place in the quarter-finals ahead of next week’s return fixtures.

J.League champions Gamba claimed a comprehensive 3-1 win over Korea’s FC Seoul at Seoul World Cup Stadium thanks to two goals from the impressive Takashi Usami, while Kashiwa came back from a goal down also away from home to beat K-League Classic side Suwon Samsung 3-2 courtesy of Leandro’s brace.
Seongnam edged out China’s Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1, while Persepolis, Naft and Lekhwiya will also take one-goal advantages into next week’s second legs, while the ties involving Emirati duo Al Ahli and Al Ain and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Beijing Guoan ended all square.
“This match is not yet over. There is still the second leg to play and we have to stay focused and finish the job that we have started,” said Gamba coach Kenta Hasegawa.
“Seoul are a very tough team and they showed that again and we know that they will be the same in the second leg.
“We have to prepare and train well to try and win the next game. There is still a lot of football left.”
With four of the first legs taking place in Korea, Kashiwa emerged victorious as Akimi Barada was also on target at Suwon World Cup Stadium, although goals from Yeom Ki-hun and Jong Tae-se gave Suwon hope.
Seongnam were the only Korean side to win their first leg at home after Kim Do-heon’s penalty in the sixth minute of stoppage time secured a 2-1 win over China’s Guangzhou Evergrande.
Fellow Chinese Super League side Beijing, though, benefited from a late spot kick as Pablo Batalla netted with five minutes remaining to secure a 1-1 draw with Jeonbuk.
Elsewhere, a late own goal from Brazilian defender Digao saw Persepolis edge out last year’s beaten finalists Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia 1-0 at a sold-out Azadi Stadium ahead of the return meeting at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh next week.
“I can’t explain how happy I am after this wonderful victory,” said Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic.
“We won a big game and I would like to congratulate the fans and my players.
“We have had two big games in just four days. We had to recover after a tough league game against Esteghlal and fortunately we got a good result and took a big step towards the quarter-final.”
Also in the West, Lekhwiya emerged with a one-goal lead after defeating Al Sadd 2-1 in their all-Qatar Round of 16 clash, while Gholamreza Rezaei scored the only goal as Naft edged out Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.
And finally, the honours were shared when Al Ahli and Al Ain played out a goalless draw in Dubai.
CAPTION – Takashi Usami scored twice as J.League champions Gamba beat Korea Republic’s FC Seoul 3-1 at Seoul World Cup Stadium in the first leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 tie this week.
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