Former continental champions Guangzhou Evergrande, Suwon Samsung, Seongnam FC, Al Ain, Al Sadd and Al Hilal as well as Kashiwa Reysol and Al Ahli from Saudi Arabia secured qualification for the last 16 of the AFC Champions League this week.
Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande, who won the continental title in 2013, booked their place in the Round of 16 despite being held to a goalless draw by Korea Republic’s FC Seoul on Tuesday.
FC Seoul are still in contention to join Guangzhou in the last 16, although Japan’s Kashima Antlers beat defending champions Western Sydney Wanderers from Australia 2-1 to put the pair level on points in Group H heading into the final round of fixtures next month.
Western Sydney must now defeat Guangzhou in their final game and hope Kashima and FC Seoul draw, with the winner at Kashima Soccer Stadium guaranteed progress to the last 16.
“I am very happy that we made certain of first place in the group,” said Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro.
“It was a really tough game but the effort that the players put in and their mentality was admirable.”
Korea’s Suwon secured their spot in the last 16 from Group G with a 2-1 win over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds that also eliminated the 2007 champions, while China’s Beijing Guoan lost 1-0 to a resurgent A-League champions Brisbane Roar.
Two goals from Kosuke Taketomi, meanwhile, ensured Japan’s Kashiwa advanced to the Round of 16 from Group E following a 3-2 win over Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
And with Shandong Luneng beating already-eliminated Vietnamese champions Becamex Binh Duong 3-1 in Jinan, K-League Classic champions Jeonbuk must avoid defeat at home to the Chinese Super League side next month to ensure their progress.
Fellow Korean side Seongnam, though, are already guaranteed a place in the knockout stage with a game to spare after beating Thailand’s Buriram United 2-1 in Group F.
Seongnam are currently three points clear of Buriram and Japan’s Gamba Osaka at the top of the table after the 2008 champions pulled themselves back into contention with a 5-0 thrashing of Guangzhou R&F which eliminated the Chinese Super League side.
Elsewhere, inaugural AFC Champions League winners Al Ain guaranteed their progress with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab in Riyadh that moved Zlatko Dalic’s side to the top of the standings in Group B, one point ahead of Iran’s Naft Tehran, who were held to a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor.
Asamoah Gyan scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute and the win means Al Ain cannot finish any lower than second in the group thanks to their better head-to-head record against Pakhtakor.
“I want to congratulate the players for the victory as we secured our place in the knockout stage,” said Dalic.
“We will continue our good results in the next matches and our aim now is to finish on top of the group. I hope that we can get another win in the last match and continue our good results in the competition.”
Qatar’s Al Sadd and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal booked their places in the Round of 16 from Group C thanks to wins over Lokomotiv Tashkent and Foolad respectively, while Al Ahli from Saudi Arabia’s beat Al Ahli from the United Arab Emirates 1-0 to ensure their progress from Group D.
Finally, Qatar’s Lekhwiya moved to the top of Group A with a 3-0 win over Iran’s Persepolis and the pair as well as Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr – who defeated Uzbekistan’s 1-0 Bunyodkor – remain in contention to progress.
CAPTION – Former continental champions Guangzhou Evergrande advanced to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League following a goalless draw with Korea Republic’s FC Seoul on Tuesday.