Thursday 25 August 2016, 03:46

FC Seoul, Al Nasr cruise as former winners misfire

German coach Felix Magath opened his AFC Champions League campaign in disappointing fashion as Shandong Luneng were left on the brink after suffering a 3-1 defeat at FC Seoul in first-leg quarter-final action. However, the biggest win was on the other side of the continent as United Arab Emirates’ Al Nasr fired three unanswered goals past hosts El Jaish. The result leaves Ivan Jovanovic’s side with one hand on a last-four berth at the expense of the Qataris.

While the winning duo excelled, a pair of former champions were held to goalless draws leaving both ties wide open. Inaugural winners Al Ain shared the spoils with Lokomotiv Tashkent at home, while 2006 champions Jeonbuk Motors played out a goalless stalemate at Shanghai SIPG.

The match FC Seoul 3-1 Shandong Luneng Having won away and drawn at home during the group phase, FC Seoul had their sights firmly fixed on three points in their re-meeting. As expected, coach Hwang Sunhong's hosts came out strongly and they were two goals up by the half-hour mark. Dejan Damjanovic opened the scoring inside 19 minutes after heading home Park Chuyong's cross. The provider then turned scorer as Park latched onto Cho Chanho's perfect through ball to double the advantage.

FC Seoul heaped further pressure on Shandong as they sought to crush the C League side's confidence with a third. However, Magath's visitors managed to pull one back when Walter Montillo curled a free-kick over the FC Seoul wall and into the far corner to halve the deficit. Shandong pressed hard after the restart for an equaliser, but it was the home team who restored their two-goal lead as substitute Adriano slotted home following a Damjanovic back-heel. Things got even worse for Shandong when Jin Jingdao was dismissed after receiving a second yellow card with ten minutes remaining.

The other attractions With Argentine playmaker Dario Conca and new Brazil import Hulk missing due to injuries, Sven-Goran Eriksson's Shanghai SIPG could muster no more than a goalless draw at home against Jeonbuk Motors. The hosts found themselves largely confined to defending and attacking on the break, and it was Choi Kanghee's visitors who came close to taking the lead with Leonardo hitting the upright. At the other end, Wu Lei saw his glancing header fly narrowly over in the closing stages.

It was a similar affair in UAE as neither hosts Al Ain nor Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv were able to find the back of the net. The two sides struggled to find their normal rhythm in stifling conditions with goalscoring opportunities at a premium. The home team missed a golden opportunity nine minutes from time when Danilo Asprilla's close-range effort was saved by Ignatiy Nesterov.

New recruit Wanderley made a splash for Al Nasr as the Indonesian completed a brace on his AFC Champions League debut for the United Arab Emirates' giants, en route to their 3-0 triumph. He opened the scoring for the visitors in the closing minute of the opening half and, after Jonathan Pitroipa doubled the lead ten minutes into the second period, the 27-year-old striker sealed victory with a second four minutes from time.

The player Dejan Damjanovic enjoyed a memorable AFC Champions League campaign with FC Seoul in 2013, finishing as the team's top-scorer with seven goals as his side stormed into the final. Three years on, the Montenegrin is well on course to emulate that feat despite recently turning 35. The evergreen attacker broke the deadlock with his fifth of this campaign and provided the assist for Adriano to seal the tie, performances which suggest he is still in his goal-scoring prime.

The stat 7 - Recent history suggests Lokomotiv Tashkent and Jeonbuk Motors have cause for optimism heading into the return legs. Since 2009, there have been nine knockout stage games ending 0-0 in the first leg, with seven visitors going on to win at home in the return to progress.

What they said "I think it (0-0) was an acceptable outcome. Of course, winning would have been better, but the draw is also OK and a clean sheet at home is very important. The tie is still open and there are still possibilities for us to reach the semi-final. I don’t know if we have a psychological advantage now, with any goal for us in the second leg now counting double. But nil-nil at home is never a bad a result in this kind of game and they now have to score to beat us,” Shanghai SIPG coach Sven-Goran Eriksson

Quarter-final first leg results *23 & 24 August *Al Ain 0-0 Lokomotiv El Jaish 0-3 Al Nasr Shanghai SIPG 0-0 Jeonbuk Motors FC Seoul 3-1 Shandong Luneng