Central Coast Mariners, Beijing Guoan, Bunyodkor and Al Hilal have all secured a safe passage into the last 16 of the AFC Champions League.
Last season’s semi-finalists, Bunyodkor, drew 1-1 against three-time champions Pohang Steelers to progress into the knock-out stages for the sixth season running.
Pohang needed a win to keep their chances of advancing alive, but in the end were fortunate to get a point as Park Sung-Ho’s stoppage-time effort cancelled out Oleksandr Pyshur’s opener.
The draw against Pohang proved enough for Bunyodkor to clinch top spot in Group G and they were joined in the next round by Beijing Guoan, who played out a goalless stalemate Sanfreccee Hiroshima. Beijing can now look forward to a last-16 showdown against FC Seoul.
In Group H, Central Coast Mariners celebrated becoming the third A-League club to progress into the last 16 despite being on the receiving end of a 3-0 defeat against Kashiwa Reysol.
Masato Kudo broke the deadlock when he beat the offside trap to guide the ball past goalkeeper Matt Ryan just before the hour mark for Kashiwa, who topped Group H. Cleo added a second from close range and fellow Brazilian Leandro Domingues made it three with a free-kick.
Guizhou Renhe failed to reach the last 16 in their first appearance in the competition after being held 2-2 against Suwon Bluewings in the group’s other fixture. Guizhou twice battled back from behind through Zhang Cheng-Lin and Sun Jihai after Lee Jong-Min and Kwon Chang-Hoon had netted for Suwon.
Esteghlal clinched top spot in Group D with a 1-0 victory away at Al Ain thanks to a second-half penalty from Javad Nekonam after Mohamed Ahmad Gharib was penalised for a challenge on Siavash Akbarpour.
Victory for Esteghlal ensured Al Hilal had to settle for second place following their 2-0 win at Al Rayyan. Mohamed Al Aaeldin’s own goal and Saad Al Harthi’s diving header proved the difference, with both goals coming in the final 12 minutes.
Al Ahli and Al Gharafa finished first and second in Group C following a 2-2 draw against Al Nasr and 3-1 defeat at Sepahan respectively.
Converted penalties from Waleed Bakshwn and Leo Lima and goals from Taisir Al Jassim and Rashid Malallah saw Al Ahli and Al Nasr play out at eventful draw, while Amid Jahanalian, Mohammad Gholami and Mohammad Reza were all on target for Sepahan. Majdi Siddiq’s free-kick had initially Al Gharafa hauled level.
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