Former champions set for Bunyodkor showdown

Former champions set for Bunyodkor showdown

Three-time Asian champions Pohang Steelers need just a one point against Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor on Wednesday to qualify for the last 16 of the AFC Champions League and maintain their push for an unprecedented fourth continental title.

Ghanaian striker Derek Asamoah scored his second goal of the campaign two weeks ago

The K-League side only need to avoid defeat at Jar Stadium to advance from Group E alongside Australia’s Adelaide United, although their task is complicated by Bunyodkor’s need to claim all three points to advance to the Round of 16 for a fifth consecutive season.

With Adelaide ensuring qualification following a goalless draw with the Uzbeks champions at the start of May, Kim Jin-ryong and DerekAsamoah scored as 2008 AFC Champions League winners Pohang beat Japan’s Gamba Osaka to move two points clear of Bunyodkor with just one game remaining.

“The match against Bunyodkor is now very important,” said coach Hwang Sun-hong, who won the Asian Club Championship twice with Pohang as a player in 1997 and 1998, following the win over Gamba.

“As it will be a decisive game, I will ask my players to keep their concentration for the next match.”

Bunyodkor, who have lost in the Round of 16 for the last two seasons after reaching the semi-finals in 2008, beat Pohang 2-0 in Korea on Matchday Two and warmed up for the return fixture with a 2-0 win over Olmaliq Friday to move level on points with Nasaf at the top of the Uzbek League.

“Everything is now in our hands as we have the last match at home in our city against Pohang Steelers, and if we beat them we will be in the next stage,” said Bunyodkor coach Mirdjalal Kasimov following the goalless draw with Adelaide.

“It will be difficult, but it is possible to win and go through to the next stage.”

With the defeat by Pohang signaling elimination for 2008 champions Gamba, Adelaide need to win in Japan to be certain of top spot in the group although a draw or defeat could still be enough as long as Pohang fail to beat Bunyodkor.

“They are a good side and they’ve got a lot of respect in Asia and they’re not going to come out next Wednesday night and play to lose – no professional team does,” said Adelaide coach John Kosmina.

“We’ve got to go there in the frame of mind that we’ve got to get a result, it doesn’t matter that we’ve already qualified, we’ve got to get a result.”

Iain Fyfe is set to start at centre-back in place of the injured Osama Malik for Adelaide, with Sergio van Dijk pressing for a start up front after Bruce Djite started all the previous five games in the competition.

In Group F, Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai entertain fellow qualifiers FC Tokyo with top spot up for grabs, while Beijing Guoan travel to Australia to face Brisbane Roar.

With Ulsan and FC Tokyo already assured of qualification, the Japanese Emperor’s Cup winners need to avoid defeat to earn home advantage against the runner-up from Group H.

Ulsan, who lost 2-1 to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the K-League on Friday, will be without suspended Japanese midfielder Akihiro Ienaga.

In the West, AFC Champions League ever-presents Pakhtakor travel to the United Arab Emirates needing to pick up all three points to advance from Group B ahead of the tournament debutants Baniyas.

With unbeaten two-time winners Al Ittihad already assured of top spot ahead of their meeting with Qatar’s Al Arabi, second place Baniyas hold a one-point advantage over Pakhtakor after the pair shared a 1-1 draw in Tashkent on Matchday Two.

Defender Egor Krimets will miss the game for Pakhtakor after being sent-off during the 2-1 home defeat by Al Ittihad, while Baniyas midfielder Sultan Al Ghafri is also suspended.

Finally in Group A, play-off winners Esteghlal need just a point from their visit to Uzbekistan to face already-eliminated AFC Cup winners Nasaf to advance from Group A alongside Al Jazira.

Esteghlal coach Parviz Mazloomi, though, must re-shuffle his side with midfielder Andranik Teymourian and defenders Hanif Omranzadeh and Ali Hamoudi suspended.

Al Jazira have already won the group after posting four wins from five games, but face an Al Gharafa side in Doha who must win and hope Esteghlal fail to beat Nasaf to advance to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League for the first time.

World Sport Group

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