(The only blemish on FC Tokyo’s otherwise unbeaten qualification record for the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League may prove to be the most costly, as Ulsan Hyundai capitalised on one of their very few chances to beat the Gas 1-0 top Group F, and with it ensure the J.League side will travel to China to play Guangzhou Evergrande on 30 May. The Horangi will welcome Kashiwa Reysol to the Big Crown on the same date, where the Sun Kings will be looking to book a berth in the Autumn’s quarter-finals)
FC Tokyo were made to rue their profligacy at the Big Crown Stadium, as Ulsan Hyundai scored the only goal of a game which decided the victors of Group F, and leaves the Gas with an uncomfortable trip to the Tianhe Stadium on 30 May to face Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande in the Round of 16.
Ranko Popovic’s side were dominant throughout and created a number of excellence opportunities, but it is the Horangi who earned the right to meet reigning J.League champions Kashiwa Reysol at home via a 37th minute Kang Min-Soo goal which came entirely against the run of play.
(Highlights of the 2-0 victory versus Gamba Osaka which gave Adelaide United a home berth in the Round of 16. United will meet Group G runners-up Nagoya Grampus on 29 May in the one-off elimination match)
Having seen their interest in the 2012 AFC Champions League end following their 2-0 defeat at the Pohang Steel Yard on Matchday Five, Gamba Osaka entertained Adelaide United at the Osaka Expo ’70 Stadium with little more than their pride to play for.
Manager Masanobu Matsunami chose to field a young, experimental side in front of a crowd numbering little more than 7,000. Unfortunately for Gamba the changes failed to enliven a team which has suffered across all competitions in 2012, and they crashed to their fifth defeat in six group matches, conceding twice in the second half including an Akihiro Sato own goal while failing to score any in reply.
With the Suita side’s J.League campaign floundering it seems likely that Gamba will not appear in the 2013 tournament, and Matsunami now must endure what is likely to be a very difficult Matchday Twelve fixture against a revitalised Yokohama F-Marinos at the Nissan Stadium.
Adelaide United, who needed to take all three points to be assured of topping Group E, will host Nagoya Grampus at the Hindmarch Stadium on 29 May for a place in the quarter-finals.
(All the goals from the Mizuho Athletics Stadium as Nagoya Grampus eased to a 3-0 victory over Australia’s Central Coast Mariners in the final round of Group G matches)
Nagoya Grampus will travel to either Australia or South Korea in the Round of 16 to play one of Adelaide United and Pohang Steelers respectively, as they successfully ended their Group G campaign by downing Central Coast Mariners 3-0 at the Mizuho Athletics Stadium.
A free-kick from Keiji Tamada and a delicate Jungo Fujimoto lob in the first period were added to by Tulio Tanaka’s header late on, but the margin of victory was not quite sufficient to finish at the top of the table. Winners Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma matched the Grampus scoreline in defeating Tianjin Teda in China, and subsequently took Group G by way of a superior goal difference.
Nagoya Grampus Tamada 19′
Central Coast Mariners
Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma Bit Garam 33′
Jovancic 48′, 68′ (pen.)
(Highlights of Kashiwa Reysol’s Group H Matchday Six victory which sent them into the Round of 16. The Sun Kings will now meet either fellow J.League Division 1 side FC Tokyo or South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai on 30 May for a place in the quarter-final)
Kashiwa Reysol travelled to the Jeonju World Cup Stadium knowing only a victory would suffice against K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to progress to the Round of 16. The Sun Kings ran out surprisingly comfortable winners, a 2-0 triumph coming courtesy of second-half goals from Leandro Domingues and Junya Tanaka. Lee Dong-Gook failed to convert a late penalty for the South Korean side, but they otherwise found chances difficult to come by, Naoya Kondo and Tatsuya Masushima excellent in defence for the visitors.
The result sent Reysol to the top of Group H temporarily, and until the 90th minute of the remaining tie they looked set for a home fixture in the Round of 16. Also requiring all three points to enter the knockout stages, Guangzhou Evergrande were being held at the Thunder Castle by Buriram United, a 49th minute goal from Gao Lin being cancelled out ten minutes later by Suriya Domtaisong, but a last gasp penalty from Dario Conca gave the Southern Chinese Tigers first place in the group and in so doing put last year’s finalists Jeonbuk out of the competition.
Second place in Group H means Reysol will play their Round of 16 elimination match against either FC Tokyo or Ulsan Hyundai away from home on 30 May. The Gas and the Horangi play at the Big Crown on 16 May, with the J.League side only requiring a point to maintain their pre-eminence in Group F.
(Kashiwa Reysol’s victory in South Korea against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors meant both Guangzhou Evergrande and Buriram United needed to win to advance to the latter stages of the tournament. The two sides missed a number of excellent chances to win the game, until Dario Conca converted a 90th minute spot-kick for the Chinese team)