Al Sadd put their AFC Champions League rivals on notice with an emphatic 6-2 defeat of Uzbekistan Cup winners Lokomotiv this week, while Chinese Super League duo Guangzhou Evergrande and Beijing Guoan maintained their 100% records as the group stage of the continental championship reached its midway point after a goal-laden round of fixtures.
Former AFC Player of the Year Khalfan Ibrahim scored twice while Hasan Al Haydos, Nadir Belhadj, Abdelkarim Hassan and Grafite were also on target as 2011 winners Al Sadd eased to a convincing victory over Lokomotiv at Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday.
And the comprehensive scoreline means Al Sadd surged three points clear at the top of Group C ahead of last year’s runners-up Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia who shared a goalless stalemate with Iranian champions Foolad Khouzestan who extend their unbeaten run in the AFC Champions League to 11 games.
“The result is the biggest victory for us this season and we deserved to win this match with such a big score,” said Al Sadd coach Lhoussaine Ammouta after Tuesday’s win.
“We had a great match as the players had full concentration and they took advantage of the chances that they created. We should continue with a similar good performance in our next matches in order to win and qualify for the next round.”
In Group G, Beijing strengthened their grip on top spot with late goals from Argentinian midfielder Pablo Batalla and forward Yu Dabo securing a 2-0 win over 2007 winners Urawa Red Diamonds
The Chinese capital city club has now won all six matches they have played in 2015, with a win over Bangkok Glass in the AFC Champions League play-offs coming before back-to-back victories against Brisbane Roar and Suwon Samsung, in addition to picking up maximum points in their opening two Super League fixtures.
With a perfect nine points from three games, Beijing are five points ahead of Brisbane and Suwon who shared an enthralling 3-3 draw at Robina Stadium on Wednesday.
“It was not an easy game. Urawa were very aggressive because they lost all their previous matches, but I have to say this match was the best from my team so far in the season,” said Beijing coach Gregorio Manzano.
“We have been very consistent, especially physically. Our six consecutive wins is not easy, I am very proud of my players.”
Also enjoying a 100% record at the midway stage, former champions Guangzhou Evergrande came out on top of a seven goal thriller at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium, beating Japan’s Kashima Antlers 4-3 on Wednesday.
Brazilian Ricardo Goulart scored twice to take his AFC Champions League tally to six goals in three games as 2013 winners Guangzhou extended their lead at the top of Group H to five points ahead of defending champions Western Sydney Wanderes and FC Seoul who shared a goalless draw in the Korea Republic capital.
Persepolis, too, had been seeking a perfect record at the midway stage having won their first two Group A fixtures but the Iranian club’s winning run was ended in emphatic fashion by Saudi champions Al Nassr who recorded a 3-0 victory to move a point behind the group leaders.
A point further back is Michael Laudrup’s Qatari champions Lekhwiya who earned their first win of the campaign with Korea Republic midfielder Nam Tae-hee scoring from the spot in a 1-0 triumph over Bunyodkor in Tashkent.
Cosmin Contra’s Guangzhou R&F continue to struggle in Group F, though, as the Super League side recorded a second consecutive defeat as they lost 1-0 to Seongnam FC at home with the Korean FA Cup winners leapfrogging them into second place in the group.
Undefeated Buriram United remain on top of Group F but the Thai champions’ lead was cut to just a point after they shared a 1-1 draw in Japan with Gamba Osaka who are still to win and remain rooted to the bottom of the group.
Elsewhere, Kashiwa Reysol and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors maintained their stranglehold of the top two spots in Group E with both clubs picking up their second wins of their undefeated campaigns at the midway stage.
J.League side Kashiwa defeated Chinese FA Cup winners Shandong Luneng thanks to Naoki Wako’s stoppage time header, while 2006 winners Jeonbuk romped past Vietnamese champions Binh Duong 3-0 in Jeonju.
In the West, inaugural winners Al Ain posted their first win of the 2015 campaign with a 1-0 win away at Pakhtakor to move to the top of Group B, while Iranian debutants Naft Tehran recorded their first-ever win with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia.
Finally in Group D, the pacesetters from the Saudi Pro League Al Ahli extended their lead to two points after their 2-0 defeat of Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz, while the match between Emirati champions Al Ahli and Uzbek club Nasaf ended in a goalless draw in Dubai.
CAPTION – Former winners Al Sadd emphasized their 2015 AFC Champions League credentials with a 6-2 victory over Uzbekistan Cup winners Lokomotiv on Tuesday.