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Japanese, Korean clubs remain on course for glory

25 June 2009 09:05

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese clubs remain on course to continue their AFC Champions League success after two J-League clubs booked quarter-final berths despite defeat for defending champions Gamba Osaka.

Osaka crashed out of the competition 3-2 to fellow J-League outfit Kawasaki Frontale Wednesday while Nagoya Grampus beat South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings 2-1 to book their place in September's quarter-finals.

South Korea's K-League also has two teams through to the last eight with victories for FC Seoul and Pohang Steelers.

The Japanese and Korean sides will battle it out against west zone teams Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, Umm Salal of Qatar, and Pakhtakor and Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan.

Kawasaki Frontale coach Takashi Sekizuka was delighted with his team's result.

"Winning such an important game today will bring us good confidence, and we?d like to move on and keep fighting hard as a representative of the J-League clubs and Japan," Sekizuka said.

Dejected Osaka coach Akira Nishino said: "Key players came back from injuries and we played better than I had expected. But we lost goals when my players slowed down in the second half."

"But it was our best eleven. I was really disappointed, because we cannot play in the Champions League any more while we are regaining our best form," he added.

Following his side's clash against Suwon Bluewings, Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic said his side had come through a hard battle.

"It was really a tough game but we ended with a win. It gives us a lot of confidence to reach the last eight in Asia."

Seoul's Turkish coach Senol Gunes, who oversaw a 5-4 win for his side on penalties after a 2-2 draw against Kashima Antlers, predicted that the winner of the game would go on to lift the trophy.

"It was an exciting game between the top teams from the K-League and the J-League," said Gunes. "I said before that the winners of this game will reach the final. I still think so."

"We are going to take game by game to challenge further. It will be good for the team to have a dream (to win the Champions League)," he said.

"In this Champions League, I think Kashima Antlers and FC Seoul are the two strongest teams, so I don't expect us to have a tougher game than today's game," he added.

South Korean side Pohang Steelers thumped Australia's Newcastle Jets 6-0, with a hat-trick for midfielder Choi Hyo-Jin.

Pohang boss Sergio Farias was full of praise for his midfielder.

"We prepared well and I am happy to see a lot of goals tonight. Our aim was to proceed to the next round and that mission has been accomplished," he told the AFC Champions League website.

Gamba Osaka won the 2008 Champions League after victory for fellow J-League side Urawa Red Diamonds in 2007.

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