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Gamba and Saipa into AFC quarters, Sepahan out

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 7 May 2008

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Japan's Gamba Osaka and Iranian giants Saipa secured their places in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals Wednesday, as Adelaide, Kashima Antlers, and Beijing Guoan all inched closer.

But it was curtains for Korean hopes, two-time ACL champions Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, and last year's finalists Sepahan.

Gamba needed only a draw to progress but earned a hard-fought 2-0 win in Bangkok against Chonburi with second-half goals from substitute Masato Yamazaki and Lucas ensuring their berth in the last eight.

Saipa, coached by Iranian legend Ali Daei, booked their place with a 1-0 win over Kuwait Sports club which ensured top spot in Group B.

Kianoush Rahmati's long range effort in the 24th minute was enough to claim all three points to put them into the knockout rounds alongside defending champions Urawa Reds, who qualified automatically.

Later Al Wasl beat Al Quwa Al Jawiya 2-1 thanks to second-half goals by Mohamed Salem Al Enazi and Alexandre Oliveira to catapul from last to second in the group.

A moment of individual brilliance from Brazilian Diego clinched Adelaide a crucial 1-0 win over Pohang Steelers to keep them atop Group E with one match to play and end the South Korean side's campaign.

Chinese champions Changchun Yatai trail Adelaide by two points after a convincing 5-0 thrashing of Vietnam's Binh Duong, with the Chinese side hosting the Australians in a do-or-die clash on May 21.

Adelaide are attempting to become Australia's first team to reach the last eight and the American-raised Diego was their hero, breaking the deadlock with a 63rd-minute volley.

Changchun asserted their authority early against Binh Duong with Wang Bo heading in after only two minutes and Ivory Coast striker Guillaume Dah Zadi adding a second with a slick finish in the 13th minute.

Chen Lei volleyed home to make it 3-0 at the break before the Chinese side put the game away in the second half with a Yan Feng free-kick and a penalty converted by skipper Samuel Caballero.

Kashima Antlers continued their march with an 8-1 hammering of Krung Thai Bank, but Beijing Guoan kept up the pressure with a 3-0 win over Vietnamese side Nam Dinh.

It left both teams on 12 points in Group F, although Kashima have a far superior goal difference.

The Japanese side opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Daiki Iwamasa headed home from a corner and just two minutes later Kashima moved further ahead when Shinzo Koroki headed home a free-kick.

Yuzo Tashiro made it 3-0 on the stroke of half time and the game was over a minute after the restart when Takuya Nozawa converted a tap in.

Kashima added four more in the second period before a consolation for the hapless Thais.

At Feng Tai Stadium, Guoan completely dominated and were two goals up at the break thanks to a Guo Hui penalty and a scrambled effort by Wang Chengqing.

Yang Hao headed home a third with 12 minutes remaining.

Elsewhere, Korean outfit Chunnam Dragons saw their faint hopes of reaching the quarter-finals extinguished after a 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory, who were already out of contention.

Chunnam fell behind after four minutes when Tom Pondeljack found the back of the net with a long-range strike. Ko Ki-Gu levelled after 38 minutes but they failed to find the killer touch.

In Group A Uzbek giants Kuruvchi moved to the verge of the knockout rounds with a 2-0 win over former champions Al Ittihad.

Mirdjalal Kasimov's team secured their ticket when last year's finalists Sepahan were stunned 2-1 by Syrian side Al Ittihad Allepo.

Goals from Venezuelan pair Jonathan Perez and Jesus Gomez in four second half minutes sunk Sepahan who had controversially gone into a 47th minute lead when Hadi Aghily's header was deflected towards the target and a goal awarded even though it appeared the ball had been cleared off the line.

In Group D top spot was clinched by Al Qadsia after the Kuwait side held Pakhtakor to a 2-2 draw in an ill-tempered affair at the Mohammaed Al Hamed Stadium.

Al Qadsia took a 20th minute lead via Ahmed Ajab's header but Pakhtakor equalised in the 37th minute with a shot from Odil Ahmedov.

Al Qadsia went back in front when Khalaf Al Salama converted a penalty on half-time after Ahmed Ajab was shoved by Islom Inomov.

Zaynitdin Tadjiyev got the Uzbeks back on level terms in the 84th minute.

In Qatar Al Gharafa lost out 1-0 to Iraqi outfit Arbil in a game of little significance as both sides were already out of contention.

In Group C Mohamed Saeed Al Shehhi scored in the final minute as Al Wahda prevented Al Karama from clinching top spot in Group C with a 1-0 win over the Syrian champions.

Despite the loss Al Karama remain favourites to secure pole in the group, only needing a draw now from their final home game against Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia in a fortnight's time.

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