5 Memorable Quarter-finals
Kuala Lumpur: The 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-finals are sure to bring plenty of excitement for the Continent's football fans. Ahead of those much-anticipated ties, we have selected some of the clashes from the past editions to enjoy.
The quarter-finals were introduced in the AFC Champions League back in 2004, and since then we have witnessed some action-packed matches, particularly in recent times. the-AFC.com highlights five last eight ties that are worth reviewing and savouring.
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Bunyodkor vs Pohang Steelers (2009)
The tie between Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor and Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers will be best remembered for two things: Victor Karpenko's rocket in the first leg and a rollercoaster ride of a second half in the return meeting at The Steelyard.
No Byung-jun set the tone for a fascinating tie with an early goal in Tashkent to open the scoring in the match before Karpenko scored a sensational volley and Server Djeparov added a brace to give Bunyodkor a 3-1 advantage to take to East Asia.
Although the first half in Pohang brought no changes in the scoreline, fireworks were to come after the restart.
Kim Jae-sung scored almost immediately to reduce the deficit to one, before a Denilson double put Pohang on top only for Karpenko to hit back with another effort from range to level things up in the final minutes.
In extra-time, it was to be Pohang's Macedonian striker Stevica Ristic who would have the final say, heading home the game's winner to take his team into the semi-finals.
Buriram vs Esteghlal (2013)
A fascinating battle between two sides arguably at their peak, and ultimately settled by what was voted by the-AFC.com's fans as the best goal in AFC Champions League history.
Khosro Heydari got things off to a special start at the Azadi Stadium with a cross-cum-shot that looped spectacularly in off the far post to delight the over 95,000 fans in attendance – and there were even more amazing strikes to come.
In the return meeting in Thailand the plot thickened not long before half-time when Spaniard Osmar Barba tied the scores. Hanif Omranzadeh then put the ball back in Esteghlal's court with a 53-minute leveller.
But in stoppage time came the moment the match will be remembered for when Andranik Teymourian unleashed a screaming effort from close to 40 yards out that rocketed into the top corner.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Shanghai SIPG (2017)
In the first leg of the quarter-final between domestic rivals Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG everything went the hosts' way at Shanghai Stadium.
Four unanswered goals from the deadly attack that comprised China PR star Wu Lei and the Brazilian trio of Hulk, Oscar and Elkeson had the side dreaming of a place in the semi-finals with the second leg still to come.
They would, eventually, achieve that goal but they could not have imagined what was to come at Tianhe Stadium in the return meeting.
Alan's first half brace gave Guangzhou's fans hope at the interval, before fellow Brazilian Ricardo Goulart fired home two late goals in the final eight minutes to, improbably, take the game to extra-time.
Hulk and Goulart then exchanged goals in additional time but the match went to a penalty shootout. Cruelly, it was hat-trick hero Goulart who was the only player who failed to convert, ultimately handing Shanghai a victory – that had looked not only probable but virtually assured before kick-off – by the slimmest of margins.
Kawasaki Frontale vs Urawa Red Diamonds (2017)
The first leg ended in a 3-1 home win at Kawasaki's Todoroki Athletic Stadium as a goal from Elsinho and a brace from Yu Kobayashi muted Yuki Muto's strike for Urawa.
In their second clash, Elsinho found the target early in the game to further complicate Urawa's situation, but it was not all over as the Saitama-based side were determined to perform a miracle.
♦️ ⏪ Trailing 4-1 (aggregate) with an hour remaining of the second leg, @REDSOFFICIAL were set to exit the 2017 Quarter-Finals, then something special happened...#ACL2019 | Quarter-Finals pic.twitter.com/5DGZjDlEDg— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) August 22, 2019
Shinzo Koroki's goal took Urawa into the half-time break level on the night, and they produced three goals in the final 20 minutes through Zlatan Ljubijankic, Rafael Silva and Toshiyuki Takagi to achieve the comeback that would fuel them to go all the way and lift the trophy.
Al Duhail vs Persepolis (2018)
A recent one, from last year's tournament, but another impressive comeback made even more stirring by the packed Azadi Stadium, among the biggest and most passionate venues for football on the Continent.
Qatar's Al Duhail had enjoyed a stunning campaign ahead of the first leg in Doha, winning eight games in a row, and it proved no different against the Iranians at Khalifa International Stadium with an Almoez Ali strike making it a ninth victory in succession. But the run was to end three weeks later.
A cacophonous crowd welcomed the sides at the Tehran-based cauldron, but it was the visitors who struck first, momentarily silencing the din, as Karim Boudiaf fired home on 33 minutes.
Due to the away goal rule, Persepolis required three goals to win and as the clock crept towards the hour mark they were yet to make the breakthrough, until their captain Jalal Hosseini pulled one back on the 57th minute.
Sultan Al Brake conceded an own-goal a little under 20 minutes later and the volume at the Azadi went up several decibels. And in response to their crowd, Persepolis found their winner. Godwin Mensha took advantage of some errors at the back before coolly rounding Amine Lecomte to seal a stunning comeback.
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