South Korea's Suwon Bluewings booked their place in the last 16 of the Asian Champions League yesterday, and Japan's Gamba Osaka took a giant step towards joining them. Suwon beat China's Henan Jianye 2-0 in their Group G game thanks to a first-half strike by Jose Mota, the Brazilian, and a second in the dying minutes from Kim Dae-Eui.
They join Japan's Kashima Antlers and fellow Koreans Jeonbuk Motors, who qualified for the knockout stage on Tuesday. The J-League stalwarts Gamba, the 2008 Asian champions, are on the verge of progressing after a convincing 3-0 win over Singapore Armed Forces, who now cannot progress after taking one point from four games. It was a one-sided match with Gamba having 20 shots on target in the first half alone.
They opened their account in the 28th minute when Takahiro Futagawa sent a short corner to defender Michihiro Yasuda, who dribbled into the area and fired home an angled shot. Shoki Hirai, who scored a hat-trick in the first leg a week ago, made it 2-0 with a sweet strike in the 55th minute and Brazilian substitute Ze Carlos wrapped it up in injury time. Melbourne Victory kept their slim hopes alive with their first win of the tournament, beating Japan's Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 in Group E.
Captain Kevin Muscat, who missed his spot-kick in the Victory's A-League grand final penalty shoot-out loss to Sydney FC earlier this month, made amends by converting a 60th-minute penalty. The match turned on the decision by the Iranian referee to award a soft-looking penalty to Melbourne after striker Robbie Kruse was brought down. Meanwhile, if South Korea win the right to host the 2022 World Cup, they plan to offer North Korea some games to help ease tension between the two neighbours.
"It (hosting the World Cup) will contribute greatly to not only the football game itself but to the international situation in and around the Korean peninsula," said bid chairman Han Sung-joo. "We have plans to arrange a couple of games, maybe two or three games to be played in the northern part of Korea." And the Australia international Simon Colosimo has signed a multi-year deal with the new Melbourne Heart team in Australian football's A-League.
The former Sydney FC defender had been expected to join the Heart after a short-term deal with FC Seoul ahead of the World Cup, but the deal to the Korean club fell through. Colosimo, 31, was man-of-the-match in the A-League grand final. * With agencies.