Ibaraki: Melbourne Victory ensured their place in the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage on Tuesday as a memorable 1-0 win over Kashima Antlers saw them progress from an enthralling play-off encounter.
Andrew Nabbout’s second-half goal and a stellar performance from goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas proved the difference as Melbourne joined China PR’s Beijing FC, Chiangrai United from Thailand and Korea Republic heavyweights FC Seoul in Group E of Asia’s premier club competition.
By way of contrast, the result signalled a premature end to Kashima’s latest Continental adventure, with the 2018 title winners left to rue what could have been at a rain-sodden Kashima Soccer Stadium.
Play-off: FC Tokyo (JPN) 2-0 Ceres Negros FC (PHI)
Tokyo: FC Tokyo overcame both Ceres Negros and a wet Tokyo Stadium pitch to qualify for the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage with a 2-0 win on Tuesday.
Second half goals from Sei Muroya and Adaílton Da Silva stamped Tokyo’s ticket to the tournament proper, in the process ending Ceres Negros’ bid to become the first club from the Philippines to reach the group stage.
Tokyo’s win means the 2019 J1 League runners-up will join Ulsan Hyundai, Shanghai Shenhua and Perth Glory in Group F, which begins on February 11.
Play-off: Shanghai SIPG FC (CHN) 3-0 Buriram United (THA)
Shanghai SIPG secured their place in the group phase of the 2020 AFC Champions League on Tuesday as late goals from Li Shenglong, Marko Arnautovic and Hulk earned the Chinese side a 3-0 play-off win over Buriram United at Shanghai Yuanshen Stadium.
Li broke Buriram’s stubborn resistance 15 minutes from time in a one-sided match-up in which the Thais defended doggedly before Arnautovic added a second in injury time and Hulk struck from the penalty spot.
Vitor Pereira’s side will now feature in Group H of the AFC Champions League, where they will meet Australia’s Sydney FC, J.League champions Yokohama F Marinos and two-time champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from Korea Republic.
FC Seoul brushed aside 10-man Kedah to book their place in the group phase of the 2020 AFC Champions League on Tuesday as Choi Yong-soo’s side handed the Malaysians a 4-1 defeat at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
The 2013 runners-up will go into Group E when the tournament begins next month, where they will face Chinese Super League side Beijing FC, Thai champions Chiangrai United and Melbourne Victory from Australia.
Play-off: Al Rayyan SC (QAT) 0-5 Esteghlal FC (IRN)
Doha: Islamic Republic of Iran’s Esteghlal FC cruised to a 5-0 victory over Qatar’s Al Rayyan at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday to book their place in the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage.
Esteghlal had arrived to the play-off stage on the back of a 3-0 win over Kuwait SC in the second preliminary round, while Al Rayyan were kicking-off their campaign at this stage on home soil after finishing fourth in the 2018-19 Qatar Stars League season.
Al Ain: Saeed Juma’s second-half strike was the difference as Al Ain defeated FC Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan 1-0 at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium to reach the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage on Tuesday.
Bunyodkor had reached the play-off stage after defeating Iraq’s Al Zawraa 4-1 in the Preliminary Round 2 a week earlier. Meanwhile, Al Ain were placed directly in this stage, having finished fourth in the 2018-19 UAE Pro League.
Play-off: Al Ahli Saudi FC (KSA) 1-0 FC Istiklol (TJK)
Jeddah: A penalty from Youcef Belaïli at the death helped Al Ahli Saudi FC overcome FC Istiklol of Tajikistan to reach the 2020 AFC Champions League Group Stage with a 1-0 win at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium on Tuesday.
Istiklol had qualified to the play-off stage after stunning PFC Lokomotiv 1-0 in Tashkent in the Preliminary Round 2, while Al Ahli qualified as fourth placed in the 2018-19 Saudi Pro League.