Jeonbuk, Ulsan motor into Champions League knockouts
Beijing (AFP) –
Two-time winners Jeonbuk Motors downed runaway Chinese league-leaders Beijing Guoan 1-0 to ease into the AFC Champions League knockouts on Tuesday, joining Ulsan Hyundai in the last 16.
Kim Shin-wook's early header was enough to settle an entertaining clash at Beijing's Workers Stadium as Group G pacesetters Jeonbuk went through with a game to spare.
Elsewhere, fellow K-League side Ulsan beat Sydney FC 1-0 -- courtesy of Mix Diskerud's audacious backheeled goal -- to qualify from Group H.
And a double from Brazil star Hulk earned Shanghai SIPG a 2-2 draw with defending champions Kawasaki Frontale that set up a three-way fight for the second qualifying spot in the final round of Group H games.
Red-hot Beijing have won a record eight out of eight in the Chinese Super League, raising the hopes of a noisy and expectant home crowd.
But Kim's 17th-minute put the visitors ahead and, aided by the trickery of a rampant Ricardo Lopes, it proved enough for the 2006 and 2016 champions -- although Yu Dabao will have nightmares about his injury-time header down the throat of goalkeeper Song Beom-Keun.
In Ulsan, Norwegian-American Diskerud's cheeky finish on the hour-mark condemned rock-bottom Sydney to their second defeat in five games, and threatened to send them crashing out.
But Shanghai's draw threw the Aussies a lifeline. Hulk's late headed equaliser meant SIPG, Kawasaki and Sydney can all still join Ulsan in the knockout phase.
SIPG started with a bang in the seventh minute. Oscar won the ball on the edge of his own box and fed Hulk who surged forward, beating one defender for pace and rounding 'keeper Jung Sung-ryong.
But the lead lasted just six minutes before Kawasaki's Brazilian forward Leandro Damiao picked his way through traffic in the opposition box with a skilful one-two and smart finish.
SIPG's Zhang Wei saw a header come back off the crossbar but after the break, Shogo Taniguchi put Kawasaki 2-1 up as he got his head to a whipped cross on 66 minutes.
They were ahead for just five minutes before Hulk grabbed the equaliser, nodding in at the far post from fellow Brazil international Oscar's hanging diagonal ball.
SIPG host unbeaten Ulsan for their final group game on May 21, while Kawasaki face a tough trip to Sydney as their title defence hangs in the balance.
Thailand's Buriram United lost 2-1 at home to Urawa Reds to confirm their exit, leaving the Japanese side to face Beijing for Group G's second qualifying spot in two weeks' time.
? 2019 AFP