Asia Football Weekly: Struggles, Defeat, Strong Start, Late Goal
|Karim Benzema and Igor Coronado before the match During the Saudi Pro League between Al Ittihad v Al-Tai at Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium(Image-Getty)
1. Shanghai Port's Struggles Continue:
The Chinese Super League leaders, Shanghai Port, faced a challenging week with a 3-1 loss to Henan FC on Friday. Adding to their woes, they missed out on the Asian Champions League spot due to a 3-2 defeat against BG Pathum United earlier. This loss marked their fourth consecutive game without a win. Meanwhile, Shandong Taishan closed the gap by securing a 2-1 victory over Shenzhen FC, reducing the deficit to nine points.
2. Yokohama F Marinos' Defeat:
The defending champions Yokohama F Marinos suffered a 4-1 thrashing by local rivals Yokohama FC. This loss narrowed their lead over Vissel Kobe to just one point in the Japanese league. Vissel Kobe, however, missed a chance to take the lead when they settled for a 2-2 draw against FC Tokyo. Nagoya Grampus, the third-placed team, also faced defeat with a 3-1 loss against Cerezo Osaka.
3. Saudi Pro League's Perfect Starts:
Jeddah-based rivals, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli, maintained their perfect records in the Saudi Pro League. Al-Ittihad secured a dominant 4-0 victory, including a goal from Karim Benzema, while Al-Ahli needed an added time goal to win 1-0. Al-Hilal, placed third, emerged victorious with a 4-0 win over Al-Raed, with Aleksandar Mitrovic netting the opening goal.
4. Late Goal Saves FC Seoul:
FC Seoul managed to secure a 2-2 draw against leaders Ulsan Hyundai with a late goal by Brazilian striker Willyan, just days after head coach An Ik-soo resigned due to poor results. Ulsan had taken the lead with two goals from Joo Min-kyu, but FC Seoul fought back. Defending champions Ulsan remained comfortably ahead with an 11-point lead over Pohang Steelers, who drew 1-1 against Gangwon FC.
5. Asian Champions League Group Stage:
Al-Nassr, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, will begin their Asian Champions League journey against Iran's Persepolis in Tehran next month. Urawa Red Diamonds, the title holders, will face Chinese champions Wuhan Three Towns. Al-Hilal, now featuring Neymar, will kick off their Group D campaign against Navbahor of Uzbekistan before facing FC Nassaji Mazandaran from Iran and Mumbai City from India. The group phase of the competition is set to begin on September 18.