Gharafa edges out Shabab
IKOLI VICTOR DOHA
AL GHARAFA came from behind to beat Al Shabab of the UAE 2-1 to keep its hope alive of qualifying for the knock-out stage of the AFC Champions on Tuesday.
Trailing by a goal at the home ground, Gharafa turned around the game in three minutes of frantic surges.
Second-half entrant Aruna Dindane belted a high rising shot that hit the under-edge of the bar before crossing the goalline in the 81st minute for the equaliser.
Otman el Assas scored off a penalty in the 84th minute to give Gharafa the lead for the first time in the encounter.
The win takes Gharafa’s tally to six points from five matches with its final match away with Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, to be played after two weeks. After a goalless first half, Al Shabab’s Essa al Muhare scored the opening goal after the hour mark off a rebound that outclassed three Gharafa players on the touchline. Qasem Burhah had parried Shirook Essa’s header that fell on the part of the defender to score from five yards.
Shabab’s lead was evened in the 81st minute with a Dindane shot that hit the top of the roof after he received a through pass from Assas. Three minutes later, Assas completed the comeback with a calm finish to beat goalkeeper Salem Abdulla after referee adjudged Mehdi Mahdavika to have fouled Fahid al Shammari.
Gharafa’s goalkeeper Burhan produced some gallant saves in the closing minutes to keep the Gharafa’s lead intact.
Double by Lee Ex-Middlesbrough striker Lee Dong-Gook scored twice in injury time to put 10-man Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on the brink of the knock-outs in a dramatic night of action.
Lee’s late heroics stunned Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande 3-1, while Kashiwa Reysol’s 1-0 win over Buriram United gave all four Group H teams a chance of reaching the last 16 in their final pool games later this month. Elsewhere Central Coast Mariners clobbered China’s Tianjin Teda 5-1 to resurrect their campaign, while Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Nagoya Grampus played out a 1-1 draw to leave Group G also undecided.
Jeonbuk’s win in Guangzhou was sweet revenge for last year’s runners-up, who were humiliated 5-1 at home by the Chinese team and lost by the same score to Kashiwa, but who are now top of Group H after three wins in a row.
Guangzhou’s record signing Dario Conca, reportedly one of the world’s best paid players, put the hosts ahead with an early penalty before Lee Seung-Hyun levelled just before half-time.
And 2006 champion Jeonbuk, fresh from clinching the K-League title, then shrugged off the dismissal of defender Cho Sung- Hwan, as Lee Dong-Gook netted in injury-time and swiftly followed it up with a penalty.
There were more fireworks in the group as J-League champion Kashiwa Reysol downed Thailand’s Buriram United 1-0, leaving all four clubs separated by just three points with one round to play. Kashiwa’s goal came after 23 minutes when Hideaki Kitajima dribbled through to the left of the goalmouth before sending in a cross that Brazilian midfielder Leandro Domingues netted in the right corner.
The hopes of Buriram, who had surprisingly topped the group for much of the campaign, took a dive when defender Yves Ekwalla Herman of Cameroon was sent off shortly before half-time for a second yellow card.
Jeonbuk, now two points clear on nine points, hosts Kashiwa and Buriram, who has dropped to the bottom of the table, entertains Guangzhou in the crunch final group games on May 15.
In Group G, Central Coast Mariners hauled itselv back into contention with a 5-1 beating of Tianjin Teda, the first win of their campaign, which simultaneously sent the Chinese club crashing to the foot of the table.
Veteran striker Daniel McBreen scored a first-half double and Josh Rose, New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey and Borussia Dortmund-bound Mustafa Amini weighed in after the break to put the Mariners one win from the last 16. An away victory against second- placed Nagoya Grampus in its last game would secure progression for Australia’s Mariners while Seongnam, top by virtue of their head-to-head record, travel to Tianjin.
“It feels great to get that win,” Amini said. “We were going for the jugular and got it, and now we’re still in the competition.” Japan’s Nagoya had a secondhalf own goal from Seongnam’s Park Jin-Po to thank as it kept pace with the 2010 winner with a 1-1 draw away from home. Han Sung-wun had put the host ahead on 12 minutes.
The final group games will be played on May 15 and 16 with the two-legged round of 16 starting a week later and concluding on May 30.