Mariners edge toward knockout phase
Newly crowned A-League champions the Central Coast Mariners took a stride toward the AFC Champions League round of 16 with a 1-0 victory at Suwon Bluewings on Tuesday evening.
The Mariners, who won Sunday's A-League Grand Final against Western Sydney Wanderers, leapfrogged Guizhou into second place in their group courtesy of Michael McGlinchey's 81st-minute goal. They are now one point better off than Guizhou, who face Suwon in their final group match next week.
Also in Group H, a 1-1 draw against Guizhou Renze was enough to see Kashiwa Reysol advance to the last 16 of the Asian Champions League as Group H winners.
Tatsuya Masushima put the Japanese hosts ahead early in the second half and a win looked on the cards until Kai Li's equaliser five minutes from time. However, the point was still enough to secure top spot in the group with one round of matches remaining.
Group G will go to the wire after Bunyodkor were held to a goalless draw by Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Pohang Steelers were beaten at Beijing Guoan.
Former semi-finalists Bunyodkor went into their match knowing a victory would take them through to the last 16 but they were unable to break down the J-League champions.
They remain at the top of the group, however, with a one-point lead over Beijing who were 2-0 winners over Pohang. The South Korean side also had the chance to advance but goals from Joffre Guerron and Jiayi Shao saw them beaten and replaced in the top two by Beijing.
Bunyodkor travel to Pohang for their group finale next week while Sanfrecce, who cannot progress to the knockout stage, take on Beijing.
Al Gharafa joined Al-Ahly in the next round following a 2-2 draw against the Group C leaders. The Qatar club took the lead after 23 minutes through Alex but that was cancelled out by Amad Al Hosni eight minutes later.
A 54th-minute penalty from Djibril Cisse put Al Gharafa in the driving seat once more only for Jairo Palomino to reply for Al Ahly after 69 minutes.
The result brought an end to Al Ahly's 100 per cent record in the group and also crushed Sepahan's hopes of progressing, despite their own 2-1 victory at Al-Nasr. Goals from Radomir Djalovic and Mohammad Gholami sandwiched Younis Ameen's 72nd-minute reply, but the win was not enough for the Iranian champions, who lie four points behind the top two with one round remaining.
Esteghlal sealed their berth in the last 16 for the second successive season with a 3-0 home win over 10-man Al Rayyan, who now have no chance of finishing in the top two of Group D.
Captain Farhad Majidi opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time with Hashem Beikzadeh added a second in the 73rd minute and, after Al Rayyan had lost Fabio Cesar Montezine to a red card with 15 minutes remaining, substitute Arash Borhani completed the scoring late on for the Iranian side.
Esteghlal now have 10 points from games in Group D, one point clear of Al Hilal and four above Al-Ain.
Saudi side Al Hilal edged closer to a place in the next phase with a 2-0 win newly-crowned UAE champions Al-Ain in Tuesday's other game, Salem Al-Dosari and Wesley netting both goals in the opening 24 minutes.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.