AFC Champions League Quarter-finals 2nd Leg: The Top 5

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

With the AFC Champions League final four now finalised, FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks out the Top 5 from the second leg of the second leg of the quarter-finals.

And then, there were four.

Following two legs of keenly-contested football, it is Al Sadd who will meet Persepolis in the West Zone, while Kashima Antlers will contest the East Zone semi-final against Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

Here, FOX Sports Asia picks out the five best performers from the second leg of the quarter-finals, including a former Bundesliga hero and a man who shone despite his team losing 3-0 at home.

Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis)

Hosseini produced a captain’s display for Persepolis once again on Monday.

If ever there was a player who personified what it means to be a captain, it is Persepolis skipper Jalal Hosseini,

Having already made a crucial contribution in the Round of 16 with an 89th-minute winner against Al Jazira, Hosseini once again proved to be the man for the big occasion.

With his side trailing 2-0 on aggregate against a record-chasing Al Duhail, the 36-year-old centre-back popped up with a goal to get Persepolis back in the contest, which ultimately sparked off a 3-1 win in Tehran which saw his side progress 3-2 on aggregate.

Akram Afif (Al Sadd)

Akram celebrates his second ACL goal of 2018.

Qatari football has had no problems with producing some outstanding young talent recently and, while it was Al Duhail’s Almoez Ali who claimed the plaudits last time out, it was Akram Afif’s turn to shine in Al Sadd’s 2-2 draw with Esteghlal, which saw the advance 5-3 on aggregate.

The 21-year-old did well to open the scoring at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Monday as he cleverly made a late run into the box to meet Baghdad Bounedjah’s layoff and clinically finish into the bottom corner.

Afif was a constant threat throughout the 90 minutes and was at the thick of things once again in injury-time when he broke free inside the box before being hauled down by opposition keeper Mehdi Ramati, paving the way for Bounedjah to earn Al Sadd a draw by converting from the spot.

Humam Tariq (Esteghlal)

Humam tries his best to get Esteghlal going.

Just a year ago, Humam Tariq was lighting up the continental stage on the second-tier level, starring for Iraq’s Air Force Club in the AFC Cup.

Fast forward 12 months, Tariq has now joined Iranian giants Esteghlal and is starting to show he is destined for greater things.

Having been deployed on the left wing in the first leg against Al Sadd, the Iraq international was fielded in a central midfield position on Monday and did his best to get Esteghlal going with some creative play in the middle of the park before curiously being replaced with 14 minutes left on the clock.

Atsuto Uchida (Kashima Antlers)

Uchida gets the plaudits following a pivotal contribution.

Kashima continued to enhance their credentials with a 3-0 win over Tianjin Quanjian on Tuesday, which saw them advance from the quarter-finals 5-0 on aggregate.

Although they do not exactly have any genuine star names, it has been an all-rounded team effort which has been the key to their success thus far in 2018.

On Tuesday, it was ex-Schalke star Atsuto Uchida’s turn to shine with an all-action display at right-back, highlighted by the way he bombed forward before assisting Hiroki Abe for the Antlers’ second goal at Estadio Campo Desportivo.

Shin Hwa-yong (Suwon Samsung Bluewings)

Shin was the hero as Suwon survived a real scare to reach the semis.

For a while, it looked more likely that it would be a Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors player making this list as they overcame a significant deficit to beat Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-0 and force extra-time on Wednesday.

However, given how goalkeepers are often made to be the scapegoats when an error costs their team a result, it is only fair that Shin Hwa-yong’s heroics are given due recognition.

The Pohang native prevented Jeonbuk from completing an almighty comeback in regulation time by keeping out Adriano’s injury-time penalty, and went out to deny Kim Shin-wook and Lee Dong-gook from the spot as his side claimed a 4-2 penalty shootout triumph to reach the last four.