Home advantage was again made to count in Asia in the AFC Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday with Qatari Umm Salal, Uzbek Bunyodkor and Kawasaki Frontale of Japan all registering home wins. Tashkent-based Pakhtakor, on the other hand, became the only hosts to drop points following their 1-1 draw against Al Ittihad on Thursday.
The most impressive comeback unfolded in Doha, where Umm Salal recovered a two-goal deficit to edge FC Seoul 3-2. A quick-fire brace in the second half earned Frontale a 2-1 defeat of compatriots Nagoya Grampus, while Bunyodkor overcame an early setback against Pohang Steelers to establish a two-goal cushion to take to Korea Republic. FIFA.com reflects on the action.
The big game
Bunyodkor 3-1 Pohang Steelers
Pohang Steelers stuck with the three-thronged attack that served them so well in the previous round, when they beat Newcastle Jets 6-0, and it appeared the right formula again when No Byung-Jun gave them the lead after only seven minutes. However, the visitors' offensive approach began to backfire and Victor Karpenko equalised on the half-hour mark, before Kim Hyung-Il was sent off on 66 minutes. Thereafter, Bunyodkor were in firm control and got their reward in the form of two Server Djeparov goals in the last 11 minutes; both following Jasur Hasanov passes.
Umm-Salal 3-2 FC Seoul
Despite kicking off having lost their first two matches in the Qatari League, Umm Salal once again demonstrated their grit and quality on the continental stage. FC Seoul went ahead after only two minutes through Jung Jo-Gook, and the in-form striker doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time. The tide turned 11 minutes into the second half, however, when Magno Alves pulled one back for the hosts following a magical dribble. The Brazilian then turned provider in the 83rd minute, feeding Fabio Cesar for the equaliser, before hitting a dramatic winner for the hosts.
After twice losing to Kawasaki Frontale in the J.League this season, Nagoya Grampus were keen to make amends on the continental stage. After a sluggish start, the visitors looked on their way to realising this target when Australia forward Josh Kennedy headed them into lead on 28 minutes. However, Kengo Nakamura levelled for Frontale with a well-taken free-kick in the 59th minute and only three minutes later, Brazilian Juninho smashed a rebound home to secure the hosts a slender lead to take into next week's return leg.
After watching their compatriots Bunyodkor put one foot in the semi-finals, Pakhtakor were eager to follow suit. Things certainly looked good for the Tashkent side when Milan Nikolic's fine finish gave them a fifth-minute lead against Al Ittihad. However, after defending resolutely, the Jeddah giants managed a 72nd-minute equaliser, Saleh Al-Saqri its unlikely source, to make themselves favourites to win this tie.
Despite failing to captain Uzbekistan through to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the reigning AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov underlined his class at club level. After constantly threatening with defense-splitting passes, he scored twice to inspire Bunyodkor to victory.
The numbers game
2 - Three players managed to score doubles: Umm Salal's Magno Alves and Jung Jo-Gook of FC Seoul, along with Server Djeparov.
What they said
"Despite our 3-1 win, nothing will be decided until the final whistle in the return leg. We are determined to change our history but this is only the first game. It will be a different game in Pohang and we need to score in Korea," Bunyodkor coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
AFC Champions League 2009, quarter-final, first-leg results
Kawasaki Frontale (JPN) 2-1 Nagoya Grampus (JPN)
Umm-Salal (QAT) 3-2 FC Seoul (KOR)
Bunyodkor (UZB) 3-1 Pohang Steelers (KOR)
Pakhtakor (UZB) 1-1 Al Ittihad (KSA)