Defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande have crashed out of the AFC Champions League after claiming just five points from their first five matches.
A 2-0 win over Pohang Steelers on Tuesday had kept the Chinese Super League side’s hopes alive, but their elimination was confirmed when Sydney FC and Urawa Red Diamonds played out a 0-0 draw on Wednesday. It’s a result which means the A-League club top the group while Urawa finish in second even though Guangzhou could still draw level on points with them, as the K League Classic side have a superior head-to-head record.
It brings to an end a miserable campaign for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side who were unable to capitalise at the key moments which could have turned results in their favour.
Guangzhou were not the only side in the East Zone to see their chances end on Matchday 5. Vietnam’s Becamex Bình Duong and the Japanese duo of Gamba Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima are all no longer contenders. Buriram United were eliminated two weeks earlier.
Like Guangzhou, the 2016 competition will be one to forget for former winners Gamba Osaka. Kenta Hasegawa’s side are winless after five matches and the 2008 champions have scored just three goals. Their exit was confirmed by a 2-1 defeat at home to Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
Missing a handful of players, and not for the first time either, Bình Duong lost 3-0 to Jiangsu Suning away from home. After going 2-0 inside the first 10 minutes, an uphill battle became an insurmountable task for Nguyen Thanh Son’s side.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima had their fate in their own hands when they travelled to Jinan to face Shandong Luneng, but a 1-0 victory for the hosts ensured that it was the Chinese Super League side that join FC Seoul in progressing from Group F.
With one round of fixtures remaining, in the East Zone it is in Group E and Group G where qualification has yet to be decided.
It’s still all to play for in Group E, with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Jiangsu Suning, and FC Tokyo all capable of either topping the group or being eliminated. The final round of fixtures sees Jeonbuk host Jiangsu, while FC Tokyo visit Bình Dương.
In Group G, Melbourne Victory and Suwon Samsung Bluewings are level on six points heading into the final fixtures. The A-League outfit host Gamba on May 3, while Suwon welcome Shanghai SIPG to the Suwon World Cup Stadium.
The teams from the East Zone to already have booked their places in the knockout phase are:
Group F – FC Seoul and Shandong Luneng
Group G – Shanghai SIPG
Group H – Sydney FC and Urawa Red Diamonds