Matchweek 6 of the 2020 AFC Champions League group stages for the East Asian teams were played out across Thursday and Friday, with all of the last 16 slots for the knockout stages being filled up. All three of Japan’s representatives managed to snag themselves spots in the knockouts, albeit with the trio having a mixed bag in their Matchweek 6 outings. FC Tokyo managed to bag a last 16 ticket after edging out Australia’s Perth Glory 1-0 on Thursday, while Friday’s action saw Yokohama F. Marinos clinch top spot of Group H despite drawing Sydney FC 1-1, while Vissel Kobe, whose ticket to the last 16 and position as Group G leaders were already secured, went down 2-0 at the hands of Suwon Samsung Bluewings of South Korea.
With Group F leaders Ulsan Hyundai already clinching top spot and a ticket to the round of 16, the group’s one remaining ticket was hotly contested between FC Tokyo and China’s Shanghai Greenland Shenhua. FC Tokyo took on an already eliminated Perth Glory at Doha’s Education City Stadium, while Shenhua had the unenviable task of taking out Ulsan at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium. 2nd placed FC Tokyo have the slight advantage over Shenhua coming into this match – despite going down to Ulsan on Matchweek 5, Shenhua’s 3-3 draw with Perth had helped Kenta Hasegawa’s charges retain their Group F runners-up spot.
With Brazilian striker Diego Oliveira still out injured, Kenta relied on Oliveira’s countryman in Adailton to lead the FC Tokyo offense against Perth. And it was the former Jubilo Iwata striker who ended up bagging the winning goal of the match – after missing a bicycle kick 60 seconds into the encounter, Adailton quicky made amends in the 6th minute, racing down the left wing and performing a super solo run that was capped off with a powerful curler that left Perth’s veteran goalkeeper Liam Reddy utterly speechless.
Perth tried their best to regain control of the match in the second half, with the likes of Neil Kilkenny and substitute duo Bruno Fornaroli and Diego Castro trying their best to salvage something for the Western Australians. However, it wasn’t Perth’s day in the end as the former two’s chances while FC Tokyo goalkeeper Go Hatano was on hand to deny Castro.
FC Tokyo’s 1-0 win, coupled with Ulsan’s 4-1 demolition of Shenhua, meant that the Gasmen are going through to the knockouts alongside Ulsan, where they will meet Group E winners Beijing Sinobo Guoan on December 6th. FC Tokyo’s previous two outings in the ACL ended in round of 16 heartbreaks for the Gasmen at the hands of Chinese opposition, and Kenta’s charges would love it to avoid a third time reoccurrence.
December 6th’s round of 16 action will also see Ulsan taking on surprise packages Melbourne Victory, who beat Ulsan’s compatriots FC Seoul 2-1 to seal progression as Group E runners-up. The Big V are the sole remaining team competing in the ACL all the way from the second qualifying round, making a mockery of their stuttering domestic form by claiming the scalps of Liga 1 Indonesia champions Bali United, J1 giants Kashima Antlers, FC Seoul, and Thai League 1 aces Singha Chiangrai United en route to the knockout stages.
On Friday, Ange Postecoglou’s Yokohama took on Sydney at Al-Wakrah Sports Complex, holding a commanding position in Group H coming into the final matchweek. Yuki Saneto gave the 2019 J1 champions the lead in the 18th minute, however already eliminated Sydney managed to salvage some pride after Trent Buhaglar equalized for Steve Corica’s Sky Blues in the 29th minute. No further goals were scored and despite the 1-1 draw, Yokohama’s position in Group H’s summit was preserved thanks to 2nd placed Shanghai SIPG conspiring to lose 2-0 at the hands of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at the Khalifa International Stadium around the same time.
Friday’s action was rounded off by Vissel taking on Suwon at the Khalifa, with Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao hoping for a favor from Atsuhiro Miura’s men having drawn Suwon 1-1 on Matchweek 5. However, with virtually nothing else to play for, Vissel took the back seat as Suwon ran out 2-0 winners, thanks to second half goals from Kim Gun-hee and Lee Sang-hyub. The win was enough for Suwon to knock Guangzhou out of the ACL, with the South Koreans marching into the round of 16 as Group G runners-up alongside group winners Vissel.
The round of 16 will see Vissel taking on SIPG on December 7th, while Yokohama will entertain Suwon on the same day.