Favourites close on title triumphs
The past week has seen strongly-favoured sides edge closer to the title in west Asia, with Iran’s defending champions Sepahan enjoying a three-point lead with only five games remaining, while Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia are within just a point of winning their sixth league championship.
In the continent’s east, a revolution continued in the fledging Japanese league season with traditional powerhouses outdone by the emerging sides and the same can be said of China’s Super League, where newly-promoted Guangzhou R&F have taken the domestic competition by storm. Join FIFA.com as we illustrate the major action across the continent.
Saudi Arabia's Professional League: Al Shabab and Al Ahli set up title decider
The penultimate round on Sunday saw leaders Al Shabab record a 3-0 triumph over already-relegated Al Ansar to remain two points clear of Al Ahli, who thrashed Al Ra’ed 5-1. The results set up an enticing final showdown between the top two sides in next weekend's closing round, with a draw enough to seal Al Shabab's sixth championship, but Al Ahli can clinch their first title since 1984 if they win. Holders Al Hilal, meanwhile, are out of the title race as they trail the leaders by four points despite defeating hosts Najran 2-0.
Big match: Striking ace Nassir Al Shamrani completed a hat-trick as Al Shabab continued their amazing undefeated run this season. The goals extended his scoring tally to 23, just one strike shy of top scorer Victor Simoes of Al Ahli.
Headline-grabber: Taiseer Al Jassam and Simoes each netted a brace and Mohsen Al-Eisa was also on target as Al Ahli saw off Al Ra’ed to keep their title hopes alive.
China's Super League: Debutants back on top
The Guangzhou-based duo maintained their dominance in the Chinese league after five rounds, with newly-promoted R&F regaining the lead thanks to a 2-1 victory at Tianjin Teda, while defending champions Evergrande slipped to second after being held to a 1-1 draw by Guizhou Renhe at home. Having fired five unanswered goals past eight-time winners Dalian Shide in their last outing, Jiangsu Sainty played out a goalless draw with Shandong Luneng to move into third place. Level with them on nine points are Liaoning Whowin, who saw off struggling Qingdao Jonoon with Chinese international striker Yang Xu twice on target.
Big match: Many eyes were on Shanghai Shenhua, spearheaded by Nicolas Anelka, as they challenged hosts Hangzhou Greentown under former Japan coach Takeshi Okada. The French star latched onto a back-pass to put the visitors ahead after ten minutes but Renatinho equalised from a rebound a minute later as the home side earned a share of the spoils.
Headline-grabber: Having netted a brace in their previous 2-1 win at Guizhou, as Henan Construction registered their first points this season, Zambia captain Christopher Katongo was again the team's hero with his two second-half goals sealing a comeback triumph against Changchun Yatai. The diminutive forward's impressive display saw him top the league's scoring chart with four goals while Henan moved out of the relegation zone and into ninth place.
Iran's Pro League: Esteghlal maintain pressure on Sepahan
The title race picked up pace with five rounds remaining. Defending champions Sepahan edged Malavan 4-3 to maintain their place at the top but Esteghlal reduced the gap on the leaders to three points with a 3-1 win at Mes Sarcheshmeh. Trailing by a further two points in third place are Teraktor-Sazi, whose goalless draw against Fajr-Sepasi conceded second position to the Tehran giants.
Big match: Sepahan looked well on course to a comfortable win at Malavan after three goals in the opening 18 minutes gave them a 3-0 lead. However, they were made to sweat when the hosts drew level dramatically, with Mohammed Enzeta twice on target and Ahmad Ahi also finding the net. The contest was settled shortly after the interval when Omid Ebrahimi sealed the hard-fought win for the visitors.
Headline-grabber: Iran and Persepolis captain Ali Karimi scored his 11th goal this season, proving that the midfield maestro is still at the top of his game despite being 33 years old. The former Bayern Munich man put his side ahead after 36 minutes against Damash only to see two late goals from Reza Chavoshi and Mohammad Madhavi hand the visitors a comeback win.
In Australia, Brisbane Roar kept their title defence well on track after booking their place in the A-League Grand Final with a 3-2 second-leg defeat of Central Coast Mariners, which saw them through 5-2 on aggregate. The losers, however, can still clinch a place in the final if they defeat Perth Glory in a one-off decider next weekend.
In Japan, the new season has so far seen the traditional order overthrown, with favourites struggling and unfancied sides impressing in the J.League. Vegalta Sendai maintained their place at the summit of the standings despite being held to a 2-2 draw by Jubilo Iwata, while a one-goal victory against Kawasaki Frontale sent newly-promoted FC Tokyo level on 12 points with second-placed Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who lead the capital side on goal difference courtesy of their 4-1 defeat of heavyweights Gamba Osaka.
In Uzbekistan, having sealed their 3-1 win over Qatar's Al Arabi with a stoppage-time goal in last week's AFC Champions League fixture, Pahktakor forward Temurkhuja Abdukholiqov went on to score the match-winner as his side won 1-0 at Samarkand Dinamo. The result moved the Tashkent giants a point clear of second-placed Shurtan Guzar, who have game in hand. Trailing behind them by a point is Olmaliq, who edged out Andizhan 3-2 at home.
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