Mouth-watering last 16 in prospect

Mouth-watering last 16 in prospect

Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande have been rewarded for their dramatic win over Buriram United with a home tie against Japanese Emperor’s Cup winners FC Tokyo in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League later this month.

Argentinian midfielder Dario Conca (right) scored a stoppage time penalty as Guangzhou Evergrande edged out Buriram United

Dario’s Conca scored a stoppage time penalty on Tuesday as Guangzhou posted a 2-1 win over fellow continental debutants Buriram to top Group H ahead of J.League champions Kashiwa Reysol, while also eliminating former winners and reigning K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

And after FC Tokyo lost 1-0 to Ulsan Hyundai on Wednesday to finish as Group F runners-up, the J.League side will make the trip to Tianhe Sport Center on May 30 for the one-off knockout tie.

Guangzhou, though, will have a new coach at the helm after Korean Lee Jang-soo confirmed his departure from the current Chinese Super League leaders following the win over Buriram.

After riding their luck to beat FC Tokyo thanks to Kang Min-soo’s first half strike, last year’s K-League runners-up Ulsan will entertain Kashiwa after the tournament debutants beat Jeonbuk 2-0 in Korea thanks to goals from Leandro Domingues and Junya Tanaka.

Elsewhere, Esteghlal have been handed the ideal chance to gain revenge for missing out on the Iran Pro League title by just one point after being drawn to face three-time domestic champions Sepahan in a mouth-watering tie in the Round of 16.

Prior to the final round of Group Stage fixtures in the AFC Champions League, Sepahan had shared a goalless draw with Mes Sarcheshme on Friday to claim a third consecutive Iranian Pro League title ahead of both Esteghlal and Tractor Sazi.

And with Sepahan beating Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli 2-1 thanks to a late header from Mohsen Bengar to finish at the top of Group C, Zlatko Kranjcar’s side will entertain Esteghlal at Foolad Shahr Stadium on Tuesday after the play-off winners finished second in Group A despite a 2-0 win over Nasaf.

Also in the West, two-time winners Al Ittihad and UAE Pro League side Al Jazira will entertain Iran’s Piroozi and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli after posting the highest points totals in the Group Stage.

Mohammed Faouzi scored deep into stoppage time as Al Ittihad rounded off their Group B campaign by coming from behind twice to beat Al Arabi 3-2 in Jeddah on Wednesday, while Brazilian forward Ricardo Oliveira scored all four of Al Jazira’s goals as the 2011 UAE Pro League champions recorded a 4-3 win over Al Rayyan of Qatar.

Both Al Ittihad and Group A winners Al Jazira amassed 16 points from their six games to post unbeaten records in the Group Stage along with Al Hilal, Japan’s Nagoya Grampus and Korean duo Ulsan and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

Al Ittihad, who won the AFC Champions League in 2004 and 2005, reached the semi-finals last year while Al Jazira are making their first appearance in the knockout stage after failing to qualify for the last three years.

Piroozi will make the trip to Jeddah’s Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium next week after coming from a goal down to beat Al Shabab Al Arabi of the United Arab Emirates 3-1 thanks to goals from Eamon Zayed, Mehrdad Pooladi and Hossein Badamaki.

The Iran Pro League side, though, were forced to settle for a runner-up finish in Group D after Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal beat Qatar’s Al Gharafa 2-1 to secure a place in the knockout stage for a fifth consecutive season.

And Al Hilal will entertain tournament debutants Baniyas after Senegalese forward Andre Senghor and substitute Amer Abdulrahman scored to hand the UAE Pro League side a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor.

Finally, 2008 finalists Adelaide United will entertain Japan’s Nagoya Grampus after beating Gamba Osaka 2-0 to top Group E, while Uzbekistan champions Bunyodkor will face 2010 winners Seongnam in Korea after beating Pohang Steelers 1-0 in Tashkent.

Adelaide had already secured qualification but claimed a fourth win of the campaign to top the group as Sergio van Dijk scored his first goal of the campaign in Osaka, while Nagoya beat Central Coast Mariners 3-0 but missed out on top spot in Group G to Seongnam on goal difference.

Seongnam’s 3-0 win over Tianjin Teda in China proved crucial as the K-League side edged out Nagoya, with Bunyodkor claiming a fifth consecutive appearance in the last 16 after Anvar Gafurov’s header at the start of the second half was enough to edge 2009 champions Pohang.

World Sport Group

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