East Asia Domestic Wrap: New leaders in Japan, thrilling race in K League
Kuala Lumpur: For the first time since mid-April, the J.League has a new team in first place, while the top two in Korea Republic both dropped points to keep things tight in the run-in for the 2019 title.
The majority of the leagues in East Asia did not see action over the weekend, but there was plenty to savour in the Japanese and Korean domestic ties, so join the-AFC.com as we review the latest rounds of fixtures in East Asia.
Kuala Lumpur: The first legs of the semi-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League concluded this week with plenty of thrills and spills to savour.
Game-changers, sensational strikes and the 12th man as the 2019 semi-finals got under way in exciting style with rollercoaster matches in Qatar and Japan. Here's the post-match reaction from some of the key men involved.
Fabricio: Emotional goal nearly brought me to tears
Saitama: Urawa Red Diamonds midfielder Fabricio admitted that his stunning opener in Wednesday’s AFC Champions League semi-final first leg unleashed a torrent of pent-up emotions at Saitama Stadium.
The Brazilian had already given warning that he intended to test Guangzhou Evergrande ‘keeper Zeng Cheng with an early, unsuccessful effort on goal but few in the stadium were ready for what happened on 19 minutes.
From fully 25-yards-out Fabricio received possession, took a touch, and let fly with a vicious, swerving effort that rocketed into the opposite far corner of the goal, leaving Zeng helpless.
Kuala Lumpur: The first legs of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals delivered plenty of action as both Al Hilal and Urawa Red Diamonds secured commanding leads against Al Sadd and Guangzhou Evergrande respectively.
Bafetimbi Gomis netted twice in Al Hilal's 4-1 victory to move on to nine goals in the competition – level with Al Wahda's Leonardo in the race for the top scorer accolade. For that, and much more, here's the-AFC.com's look at the the week in numbers.
Our 12th man was the difference, says Urawa's Sekine
Saitama: Urawa Red Diamonds winger Takahiro Sekine hailed the club's loyal supporters after a passionate home crowd helped the J.League side to a 2-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
It has been a tough time to be both a Urawa Reds player and supporter of late. A torrid run of form in their domestic championship has seen the Saitama side drop to the lower echelons of the league, go 10 matches without a win in all compeitions, get knocked out of the Emperor's Cup by a fourth tier side, and fail to keep a cleansheet since June 6.
And yet in the 2019 AFC Champions League, the two-time Asian champions continue to defy form and expectations alike.
A run to their fourth semi-final at the expense of high-flyers Ulsan Hyundai and Shanghai SIPG was followed up at Saitama Stadium with another impressive performance as they defeated the Chinese Super League leaders Guangzhou 2-0 to take a firm hold on the tie.