AFC Champions League 2018 Playoffs: Al Ain, Suwon Bluewings reach group stages

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Eight teams confirmed their berth in the group stages of Asia's primary club competition on Tuesday...

Here's the roundup from this week's AFC Champions League playoff matches which saw eight teams reach the group stages: 

1) AL GHARAFA 2-1 PAKHTAKHOR TASHKENT: 

Qatar's Al Gharafa reached the AFC Champions League 2018 group stages with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan's Pakhtakhor Tashkent on Tuesday at home. Dutch superstar Wesley Sneijder out them ahead in the game early on from the penalty spot after Mehdi Taremi was fouled inside the area. 

Diogo Amado doubled their advantage after his strike was let through into goal by the away side's goalkeeper Aleksandr Lobanov. Though Jasurbek Khakimov scored in stoppage time for the team from Tashkent, Al Gharafa hung on to clinch the win. Al Gharafa will now join the UAE's Al Jazira, Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli and Iran's Tractor Sazi in Group A. 

2) AL AIN 2-0 MALKIYA CLUB:

Al Ain secured a spot in the group stages of the competition following a facile 2-0 win over Bahraini club Malkiya. The visitors put in a determined performance in the first half, resisting Al Ain's attack but were undone after the break. 

Swedish striker Markus Berg finished off Hussein El Shahat's square ball following a quick break from the winger to give Al Ain the lead. Caio then headed home Bandar Al Ahbabi's cross to seal the win for his side. 

3) ZOB AHAN 3-1 AIZAWL FC:

Iranian outfit Zob Ahan downed India's Aizawl FC to claim a spot in the group stage of the tournament on Tuesday. Mehdi Rajabzadeh converted an early penalty awarded to put Zob Ahan in the lead before Aizawl's Romanian midfielder Andrei Ionescu equalised with a side-footed finish from inside the box in the 21st minute. 

But Morteza Tabrizi scored two headers in the final ten minutes to settle the tie in his team's favour and progress. Zobahan join Qatar’s Al Duhail, UAE’s Al Wahda and Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent in group B of the 2018 AFC Champions League.

4) SHANGHAI SIPG 1-0 CHIANGRAI UNITED:

China's Shanghai SIPG secured their third consecutive appearance in the AFC Champions League following a 1-0 victory over Thailand’s Chiangrai United. Shanghai dominated the game in the first half but went ahead three minutes after the restart. 

Yu Hai's initial attempt from Hulk’s corner and Shi Ke’s follow-up effort was thwarted by the Thai team's goalkeeper, only for Yu to head home from close range. Shanghai join Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, Australia’s Melbourne Victory and Ulsan Hyundai of Korea Republic in Group F. 

5) FC NASAF 5-1 AL FAISALY:

Uzbekistan's FC Nasaf registered an emphatic 5-1 victory over Al Faisaly and booked their spot in the AFC Champions League group stages. Nasaf was given the lead when Igor Golban powered in a header from Slavko Lukic’s corner kick in the 12th minute. After the restart, Bobir Abdixolov doubled the lead before Azizjon Ganiev made it 3-0. 

Nasaf skipper Dragan Ceran then converted a penalty to make it 4-0 before a Yasser Al Rawashdeh own goal gifted Nasaf a five-goal lead. Alban Meha's freekick was a mere consolation as Nasaf joined Iran's Persepolis, Qatar’s Al Sadd and Al Wasl from the United Arab Emirates in Group C.

6) SUWON BLUEWINGS 5-1 FLC THANH HOA:

South Korean outfit Suwon Bluewings also progressed to the AFC Champions League group stage by defeating Vietnam's FLC Thanh Hoa. In snowy conditions in South Korea, Waguininho gave the home team the lead before Lim doubled Suwon’s lead with the last kick of the first half. 

Lim helped Waguininho net a third goal. Defender Lee Ki-je added a fourth just before the hour mark and Damjanovic got a debut goal as full-time approached, before Pape Omar Faye grabbed a consolation for FLC Thanh Hoa in added time. Suwon will enter Group H alongside Sydney FC of Australia, China's Shanghai Shenhua and Japan's Kashima Antlers. 

7) KASHIWA REYSOL 3-0 MUANGTHONG UNITED: 

A Cristiano brace helped Kashiwa Reysol book their place in the 2018 AFC Champions League by downing Thailand's Muangthong United. Brazilian striker Cristiano finished off a cutback from Junya Ito before doubling the lead with a wonderful run and finish 11 minutes later. 

Ito then made sure of the result with a cool finish in the 89th minute. Kashiwa, meanwhile, will now compete in Group E of the competition proper, alongside Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of Korea Republic, Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC, and Tianjin Quanjian. 

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8) TIANJIN QUANJIAN 2-0 CERES NEGROS:

French striker Anthony Modeste was the hero for Tianjin Quanjian as his brace secured the Chinese side a 2-0 win over Philippine's Ceres Negros. The Filipino side started the game better but the home team took the lead in the 18th minute. He towered above the Ceres defence from a corner to smash a home. 

Then Alexandre Pato cushioned a ball for Modeste to finish home and notch a win for his team. Tianjin Quanjian joins Hong Kong’s Kitchee, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of Korea Republic and Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol. 

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