AFC Champions League 2017

2017 In Review: January - March


Kuala Lumpur: 2017 was an eventful year for Asian football, providing fans with a host of memorable moments. As the year heads to a close, the-AFC.com looks back at what transpired throughout the year in a four-part series, starting with the first three months.

January

As usual, the first major action of the calendar year took place in the preliminary stages of the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. 

One of the standout performances of this stage came from Global FC, who became the first Filipino club to participate in the AFC Champions League when they faced Tampines Rovers of Singapore.

Global marked their debut with a historic result as goals from Ahamad Azzawi and captain Misagh Bahadoran gave the side from Cebu a 2-0 win, which saw them progress to the Preliminary Stage 2 clash with Australia's Brisbane Roar.

Although Global would go on to lose 0-6 to Brisbane, the first experience of playing at the highest stage will undoubtedly remain a special one for the club and their fans.

Also making their debut in Asia's premier club competition were Hong Kong's Kitchee SC, who came close to pulling off a major upset against 2012 champions Ulsan Hyundai in the play-off.

With only one win separating them from a group stage spot, Kitchee held Ulsan to a 1-1 draw at the end of 120 minutes but eventually suffered a heartbreaking defeat on penalties.


February

With the preliminary stage wrapped up, the focus shifted to the group stage in both AFC club tournaments, which kicked off in February.

Among the debutants in the AFC Champions League were Eastern SC, who had grabbed the headlines when they won the Hong Kong championship, after their coach Chan Yuen-ting became the first female to manage a professional men's team to a league title.

The 2016 AFC Women's Coach of the Year continued her trailblazing rise when she took her place in the dugout for Eastern's opening AFC Champions League game against Luiz Felipe Scolari's Guangzhou Evergrande, to enter the record books as the first female coach in the history of the competition.

The 28-year-old Chan could not ultimately take Eastern to the knockout stages and has since resigned from her post but her achievements in 2017 will be remembered for years to come.

Over at the AFC Cup, a new format saw the 34 participating teams divided across nine groups based on five geographical zones. Defending champions Air Force Club from Iraq kicked off their title defence with a lacklustre 0-0 draw away to Lebanon's Al Safa in Group B.


March

In March, Asia's best went head to head on sand as well, as Malaysia played host to the 2017 AFC Beach Soccer Championship.

With three spots at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 to fight for, the Batu Buruk beach of Kuala Terengganu witnessed intense competition between the 13 teams.

 In the end, it was Islamic Republic of Iran who triumphed in the final; a 7-2 win over the United Arab Emirates saw the Iranians pick up their second title in the competition. 

The two finalists were joined by Japan in booking a ticket to the Bahamas, after the Samurai Blue defeated Lebanon 6-3 in the third-place play-off.

Back on the green pitch, international football resumed after a four-month break. 

After scoring just two goals and picking up two points in their first five games, China PR got their first win in the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers when they upstaged Korea Republic at home.

Marcello Lippi's side took the lead with Yu Dabao's 35th minute header before holding on to register their elusive first victory. 

Despite the win, China went on to lose their next game to Iran, who tightened their grip on the top spot in Group A with a 1-0 win at the Azadi Stadium, courtesy of Mehdi Taremi's goal. 

Meanwhile, the third round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers kicked off with 24 countries vying for the remaining 12 spots in the finals. 

The opening matchday saw massive victories for Oman, who defeated Bhutan 14-0, and Jordan, who beat Cambodia by a 7-0 scoreline.