Posted on May 16
Adelaide United and Ulsan Hyundai secured crucial home advantage for the AFC Champions League last 16 as they registered important wins on Wednesday to finish top of their groups.
Adelaide scored twice in the second half for a 2-0 away victory over former champions Gamba Osaka, while South Korea's Ulsan edged Group F's top-of-the-table clash 1-0 against FC Tokyo.
Both teams will now play this month's one-off round-of-16 games at home, a major boon in a competition where away games often involve long flights across the vast Asian region.
In other results, Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor beat Pohang Steelers 1-0 to follow Adelaide into the knock-outs, and A-League champions Brisbane Roar ended their disappointing campaign with a 1-1 draw against Beijing Guoan.
Adelaide, beaten by Gamba in the 2008 final, were held until the 65th minute in Osaka, when substitute Dutch forward Sergio van Dijk nudged in a cross from the right.
And the Japanese hosts exited in disarray when Akihiro Sato's attempted clearance from a corner flew into his own net with three minutes left on the clock.
In Ulsan, defender Kang Min-Soo's 37th-minute strike proved the difference in a tense encounter with FC Tokyo. Ulsan finished top of Group F, three points clear of Tokyo, who also qualified for the knock-out round.
And Bunyodkor defender Anvar Gafurov was the hero in Tashkent as his goal just after half-time allowed the home side to leapfrog Pohang Steelers into the second qualifying spot in Group E.
Meanwhile Brisbane were left frustrated with their 1-1 draw after they laid siege to the visitors' goal, but had only Albanian striker Besart Berisha's 15th-minute strike to show for their dominance.
Beijing Guoan then scored from one of their few attacking raids, when Li Hanbo powered home a fierce volley into the roof of the net after being put clear on the right on 34 minutes.
Brisbane totted up 31 shots on goal, but substitute Mao Jianqing had a chance to snatch all three points in the 78th minute only to miscue his shot at the Roar goal. Berisha hit the post in the 90th minute.
Later on Wednesday United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira warmed up for their Last 16 home tie against Saudi Arabian team Al Ahli next week with a thrilling 4-3 win away at Qatari outfit Al Rayyan in their final Group A game.
Star of the show as so often in this year's group stage was Brazilian striker Ricardo Oliveira who scored all four of Al Jazira's goals to take his tally to 10 for the competition and top the scoring charts.
It was a good night all round for Emirati sides as Baniyas's impressive debut appearance saw them seal their place in the last 16 with a 2-0 home win over experienced Uzbek campaigners Pakhtakor.
Goals by Senegalese striker Andre Senghor and substitute Amer Abdulrahman did for the Uzbeks and sent the home fans into ecstatic disbelief at their team's unlikely success.