K-League sides Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors swept into the Asian Champions League knockout phase on Tuesday along with Japan’s Kashima Antlers.
They were joined later on Tuesday by Qatari side Al Sadd, who came from 2-0 down to force a 2-2 draw with Iranian outfit Esteghlal.
However, there was trouble at Iranian side Piroozi’s home match with already qualified Saudi side Al Ittihad as about 300 to 400 youths dressed in black and carrying Bahraini flags began protesting.
The youths — who were protesting Saudi military aid to Bahrain in crushing a pro-democracy movement — were first rounded up and isolated in a section of the stands before being expelled from the stadium shortly after the second half began.
Piroozi won the match 3-2.
Suwon beat Sydney FC 3-1 at home to top Group H on nine points, the same number as Kashima, with just one round of matches remaining in the group stage.
Two goals from forward Shinzo Koroki fired seven-times J-League winners Kashima Antlers to a 2-0 victory over Shanghai Shenhua in Tokyo.
Jeonbuk edged China’s Shandong Luneng 2-1 in their away fixture to reach 12 points in Group G, a result that guarantees they will qualify for the last 16.
Suwon took control of an open and entertaining match with goals from Ha Tae-goon and Mato Neretljak. While Bruno Cazarine pulled one back for Sydney, a late strike from Yeom Ki-hun gave Suwon a deserved win.
The Koreans took the lead in the first half when a free-kick was curled behind the Sydney backline for Ha to nod home from the edge of the six-yard box and five minutes after the restart, Suwon doubled their advantage from a Neretljak free-kick.
Sydney immediately pulled a goal back, but Suwon settled the contest with 10 minutes to go.
“We have one game left at Shanghai and if we want to finish first we need to win and we will do all we can to get that result. We will fight 100 percent for victory,” Suwon coach Yoon Sung-hyo said.
Yoon was delighted with the victory over Sydney, which sends the team into the knockout stage for the third consecutive year.
“We had to win to be sure of a place in the last 16 and the performance and result was good, it was a good victory,” he said.
Jeonbuk, winners of the competition in 2006, beat China’s Shandong Luneng 2-1 through a brace from Lee Dong-gook.
Seven-time J-League winners Kashima opened the scoring in their match against Shanghai Shenhua through a Koroki header and doubled their lead when Koroki scored again after Shanghai goalkeeper Wang Dalei failed to hold an effort from Brazilian Fellype Gabriel.
“Probably all the people of the Kashima side had hoped for us to win today. I’m very glad that we were able to live up to their expectations,” Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliveira said.
Cerezo Osaka kept their Champions League hopes alive with an emphatic 4-0 win away at Arema Indonesia, moving to second in Group G behind Jeonbuk with nine points.
Al Sadd’s coach Jorge Fossati wasn’t best pleased with the manner in which his side allowed Esteghlal to steal into a 2-0 lead, but his mood was brightened by the way the Qatari side fought back and gain the point that guarantees them a place in the knockout stages.
“Now, we can go on and create history,” Fossati said. “We will not be happy if we don’t qualify as the top team in the group.”
Thirty-two teams play home and away in eight groups to qualify for the knockout stages starting this month.