As the plot thickens in the group stage of AFC Champions League 2019, FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks eight stars that shone the brightest on Match Day 4.
THE TOP 8: 2019 AFC Champions League match day 4 (part 1)
1) LEONARDO (AL WAHDA)
There is no better player to kick things off than the man who scored all four of Al Wahda’s goals as they came from two down inside the opening six minutes to pull off a remarkable 4-3 triumph over Al Rayyan.
His first in the 8th minute was a piece of beauty he waltzed his way through the opposition defence to score, and his dancing feet came to the fore again when he doubled his tally for the evening four minutes before the hour mark.
At this stage, Al Wahda were still staring at defeat but the Brazilian then found the back of the net with two poacher’s finishes in the final eight minutes to hand his side the three points and move top of the scoring charts on seven goals.
2) OMAR AL-SOMA (AL AHLI)
It is never healthy for a side to be overly reliant on an individual but that has certainly been the case with Omar Al-Soma and Al Ahli thus far in AFC Champions League 2019.
With a brace in his side’s 2-1 win over Persepolis on Monday, the Syria international has now scored all four of his side’s goals in the campaign.
Offering an outlet throughout the 90 minutes, Al-Soma broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark from the penalty spot, before adding a second seven minutes from time with a brilliant freekick that had Alireza Beiranvand beaten all ends up.
3) HAYATO ARAKI (SANFRECCE HIROSHIMA)
After coming under fire for fielding a reserve side in their campaign opener – which ended in a 2-0 defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande – Sanfrecce Hiroshima have bounced back with three consecutive wins to move top of Group F.
It was hardly a comfortable outing for Tuesday although they ultimately got the job done, beating Daegu FC 1-0 away from home.
Hayato Araki produced a standout display as his stooping header in the 34th minute turned out to be the winning goal, but he also carried out his main job to perfection as part of Sanfrecce defence that did well to keep the usually-dangerous duo of Edgar Silva and Cesinha at bay.
4) ZHANG WEI (SHANGHAI SIPG)
With coach Vitor Pereira switching from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 this season, Shanghai SIPG have taken some time to get accustomed to their new formation and it has shown in their inconsistent form so far in 2019.
After Lu Wenjun failed to impress in their previous two ACL matches, Zhang Wei – who had previously been deployed on the other flank – was given the chance at left wing-back in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Sydney FC and already looks to have nailed down his spot.
Constantly providing his side with plenty of width and energy, Zhang was also posed a constant threat with his deliveries into the box and one such sublime cross led to Wang Shenchao converting in the 59th minute.
THE TOP 8: 2019 AFC Champions League match day 4 (part 2)
5) ALMOEZ ALI (AL DUHAIL)
Following his heroics at AFC Asian Cup 2019, where he won both the Most Valuable Player and Top Scorer awards with his record-breaking nine-goal haul, Almoez Ali was back to his best in Al Duhail’s 2-0 triumph over Al Ain on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old opened the scoring after just three minutes when he spread the play out right to Edmilson Junior, before racing into the box to meet the Brazilian’s return cross with a stooping header into the back of the net.
Then, six minutes after the hour mark, Almoez turned provider as he drove at the Al Ain defence before his low pass was dummied by Shoya Nakajima into the path of Youssef El-Arabi, who made no mistake in finishing from eight yards out to wrap up the three points.
6) RICARDO LOPES (JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS)
Perennial contenders to go far in the tournament, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors made it three wins from four matches on Wednesday as they beat Urawa Red Diamonds 2-1 with a polished display.
While they had many who won their duels all over the park, Ricardo Lopes was a standout from the moment he broke the deadlock with a fine individual effort in the 12th minute as he charged down a clearance and headed straight for goal before finding the far corner.
And the Brazilian livewire then turned provider early in the second half with a lovely cross that was headed home by Kim Shin-wook, which ultimately proved pivotal considering Urawa pulled one back to set up a nervy finish.
7) RENATO AUGUSTO (BEIJING GUOAN)
Having represented Brazil as recently as last year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, Renato Augusto is always going to be expected to be one of Beijing Guoan’s most influential players.
And, with Jonathan Viera absent from the starting XI at the Workers’ Stadium, it was indeed Augusto who came to the fore with a supreme midfield display as the Chinese Super League side beat Buriram United 2-0.
The 31-year-old kept his cool to send Siwarak Tedsungnoen the wrong way from the penalty spot to open the scoring, before curling a peach of a cross onto the head of Ba Dun to seal maximum points with 14 minutes left on the clock.
8) HARISS HARUN (JOHOR DARUL TA’ZIM)
Given the way he continues to impress competing against some illustrious names on the biggest stage in Asian club football, it is remarkable that Hariss Harun has never plied his trade outside of Singapore and Malaysia.
While Johor Darul Ta’zim may still only have a solitary point from four games after losing 1-0 to Shandong Luneng, it certainly was not for lack of trying on Hariss’ part.
Leading by example, the Singapore international always looked to get his side going by doing the basics right and can be relied on set the standard in the final two group games as JDT aim to finish on a high.