While the four groups on the western side of the Asian Champions League draw remain wide open, it is a different story in the east. In fact, there is only one of the east's eight spots in the last 16 left up for grabs, with Beijing Guoan, the Chinese champions, and Japan's Kawasake Frontale, battling it out for second place in Group E. Beijing drew 0-0 away to Melbourne Victory at Docklands Stadium yesterday, but Hong Yuanshuo, their coach, is confident his side will still progress to the last 16. Beijing dominated Melbourne throughout the game but were unable to breach the home side's defence.
"I was both satisfied and unsatisfied with that performance," Hong told a post match conference. "We created a lot of chances, which was good, but we didn't put them away, which was not very good. "There were plenty of positives signs but unless we put the ball into the net then we can't be totally happy with a performance like that." With Kawasaki Frontale beating the already qualified South Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa 3-0, Beijing hold a one-point advantage over the Japanese side ahead of the meeting between the two in the final group game at Beijing Workers Stadium in two weeks.
"That match will be played on our home ground and that will make a big difference. I am confident we can get the result needed to progress," added Hong. "While out there against Melbourne we didn't put our best foot forward, we performed well enough to make me feel we can do what we need to against the Japanese side." After failing to record the win to keep their qualification hopes alive, Ernie Merrick, the Melbourne coach, was left to lament his beaten A League grand finalists' lack of depth after battling through the group stages with scheduling and injury problems.
"We're certainly unhappy with the results but I think our players did a fantastic in the Champions League under very difficult circumstances," he said. "Of our bench of six players, five of them are amateurs who have been playing in a youth team and training twice a week. "We finished up with seven players 22 or under on the pitch and none of those youngsters have let us down." In Group F, Jeononbuk Motors, from South Korea, thrashed Persipura Jayapura 8-0, leaving the Indonesian side with a -27 goal difference after five games.
* Compiled by Thomas Woods, with agencies