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Kuala Lumpur: The 2017 AFC Champions League group stage drew to a close on Wednesday as the final eight places in the Round of 16 were confirmed after the conclusion of the six rounds of fixtures.

In the West, clubs from the Islamic Republic of Iran enjoyed a particularly successful week on the continent, while sides from China PR, Korea Republic and Japan shared out the three remaining qualification spots in the East.


West Zone

Group A
All four teams in Group A began proceedings on Tuesday with the chance of qualifying for the next round, with Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates and Esteghlal three points ahead of their respective opponents Lokomotiv and Al Taawoun.

Yet to lose at home, Al Ahli had few problems against a Lokomotiv team who had lost two from two away as a 4-0 scoreline secured top spot in the standings and a date with namesakes Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia in the last 16.

A win would have moved Al Taawoun level on points with Esteghlal, but the Saudi team needed a four-goal victory to leapfrog the Iranians. It was not to be as Kaveh Rezaei bagged the decisive goal in a 2-1 win as Esteghlal claimed second place and a last 16 tie with Al Ain.

Group B
Lekhwiya were the only team in the West to have already booked their passage to the last 16 as group winners, but Al Fateh traveled to Doha in desperate need of a victory to keep their Group B qualification hopes alive. In the simultaneous kick-off, Esteghlal Khouzestan required just a draw against bottom side Al Jazira to progress as runners-up.

The night did not prove as nervy as it could have for the Iranian team, however, as Lekhwiya ran out 4-1 victors to eliminate Al Fateh. But Esteghlal Khouzestan did show fighting spirit to come from a goal down to draw 1-1 following substitute Mehdi Zobeidi’s equaliser to cap a successful maiden group stage.

Group C
Al Ain had already assured their place in the next round prior to the arrival of already eliminated Bunyodkor in Group C, but needed victory to advance in top spot. And Omar Abdulrahman put in yet another Tsingtao Man of the Match performance by scoring one and creating two in a comfortable 3-0 win.

The 2016 runners-up were to be joined in the last 16 by Al Ahli after the Saudi Arabian side’s 2-0 victory over Zobahan wrapped up second place in a game that had they lost, the Iranian team would have progressed in their place.

Group D
The action kicked-off in Group D on Monday with second-placed Al Rayyan, Persepolis and Al Wahda all looking to join Al Hilal in the last 16, while the Saudi Arabian table-toppers were still aiming to advance in pole position.

A pulsating tie at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium saw the game between Al Hilal and Al Rayyan to and fro before Omar Kharbin finally secured a 4-3 win, and top spot, for the Saudi team.

The Qataris’ defeat meant only a draw between Persepolis and Al Wahda would have seen Al Rayyan advance, but Mehdi Taremi’s hat-trick ensured it was the Iranian side who progressed in second place following a 4-2 victory.

Round of 16 fixtures (West Zone)
Esteghlal v Al Ain (1st leg – May 22 / 2nd leg – May 29)
Al Ahli (KSA) v Al Ahli (UAE) (1st leg – May 22 / 2nd leg – May 29)
Esteghlal Khouzestan v Al Hilal (1st leg – May 23 / 2nd leg – May 30)
Persepolis v Lekhwiya (1st leg – May 23 / 2nd leg – May 30)

East Zone

Group E
All four qualifications spots were secured in Groups E and F by the time the final set of fixtures rolled round on Wednesday, although the top spot was up for grabs in each table.

Two points ahead of opponents Kashima Antlers in Group E at kick-off, unbeaten Muangthong United needed to avoid defeat in Japan to progress in pole position. But a Yuma Suzuki double helped the hosts to a 2-1 victory to set up a clash with Guangzhou in the last 16, while the Thai champions will again take on Japanese opposition in Kawasaki Frontale.

Ulsan Hyundai defeated Brisbane Roar 3-2 in the other Group E encounter to finish third in the standings as the Australian side propped up the table.

Group F 
Urawa Red Diamonds and Shanghai SIPG began the night on 12 points apiece with the Chinese side needing to better the result of the Japanese outfit in order to leapfrog them into top spot in Group F.

Yoon Seung-won scored the only goal of the game as FC Seoul defeated Urawa to allow Shanghai the chance to advance in pole position. And a pulsating start at Campbelltown Sports Stadium saw Wu Lei open the scoring on 21 seconds for Shanghai before Western Sydney Wanderers were 2-1 up inside six minutes.

With the scores at 2-2 and only a minute to play, the visitors looked good to top the table until Jaushua Sotirio popped up with the winner to leave Shanghai facing an all Chinese affair with Jiangsu in the last 16 while next up for Urawa is Jeju.

Group G
The action in the East kicked off on Tuesday with table-toppers Guangzhou Evergrande, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Kawasaki Frontale all vying for two qualification spots in Group G.

Despite being in third position at kick-off, Kawasaki were favourites to advance as a win over bottom side Eastern would have secured a place in the top two. And things went to form as a comfortable 4-0 victory ensued.

A point ahead of opponents Suwon, Guangzhou needed only a draw to progress and Ricardo Goulart proved the hero as the Brazilian’s brace ensured a 2-2 scoreline as Suwon were ousted, while Kawasaki edged above Guangzhou by virtue of a marginally superior head-to-head record.

Group H
Jiangsu FC had already secured top spot in Group H but Jeju United, Adelaide United and Gamba Osaka – albeit with only the slightest of chances – were all playing for second spot.

Jeju began the night in second place, two points clear of Adelaide, and never let their position slide as Chung Woon and Hwang Il-su each scored in a 2-0 win over Gamba while Adelaide suffered a 1-0 reversal at home to Jiangsu.

Round of 16 fixtures (East Zone)
Muangthong United v Kawasaki Frontale (1st leg – May 23 / 2nd leg – May 30)
Guangzhou Evergrande v  Kashima Antlers  (1st leg – May 23 / 2nd leg – May 30)
Shanghai SIPG  v Jiangsu FC (1st leg – May 24 / 2nd leg – May 31)
Jeju United v Urawa Red Diamonds  (1st leg – May 24 / 2nd leg – May 31)

Photo: Lagardère Sports