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Kashiwa, Esteghlal into ACL knockout stage
Associated Press
2013-04-24 05:14 AM
Kashiwa Reysol secured a spot in the knockout round of the Asian Champions League with a game to spare after a 1-1 draw with Chinese club Guizhou Renhe on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Qatar side Al Gharafa advanced out of Group C after drawing 2-2 with Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia which had already booked its spot in the next round. Iran's Esteghlal also secured a place for a second consecutive time, with a 3-0 thrashing of 10-man Al Rayyan of Qatar.

Reysol only needed a draw to advance and took the lead five minutes into the second half via Tatsuya Masushima's right foot drive. Substitute Li Kai got his right foot to Zlatan Muslimovic's header to equalize in the 85th minute to keep Guizhou alive in the tournament.

Unbeaten Reysol has an unassailable lead in Group H with 11 points, ensuring it will progress to the second round for the second successive season.

Only two days beating Western Sydney 2-0 in Australia's A-League grand final, Central Coast Mariners beat Suwon Bluewings 1-0 to stay in contention in the continental championship.

Michael McGlinchey slipped a right-foot shot just under Suwon goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong's hands in the 80th minute to give the Mariners their first away win in the tournament to move into second place in the group with one match remaining, at home next week to Reysol.

Only Suwon is out of contention in Group H.

In Group G, two-time semifinalists Bunyodkor wasted a chance to advance to the knockout stage for a sixth consecutive season after being held to a goalless draw with already-eliminated J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The Uzbek side now needs to avoid defeat against Pohang Steelers next week.

Beijing Guoan also strengthened its chances of advancing by downing Pohang 2-0. A victory against Hiroshima next week and the Chinese side is through.

The 2012 runner-up Al Alhi twice came from behind to earn a draw against Al Gharafa, though it was the first dropped points this year by the Saudi side.

Brazilian midfielder Alex gave Al Gharafa the lead in the 24th with a left-footed effort from 20 yards out only for Amad al-Hosni to level seven minutes later when he took a cross from Brazilian Bruno Cesar and headed home the equalizer. Al Gharafa's Djibril Cisse put the Qatar Stars League side back in front from the penalty spot nine minutes into the second half before Jairo Palomino equalized for the Saudi club in the 68th.

In Group D, Iran Pro League leaders Esteghalal took the lead just before halftime when captain Farhad Majidi directed a downward header past keeper Oumar Barry. The Iranian side doubled its lead with 17 minutes left through Hashem Beikzadeh.

Two minutes later, Al Rayyan's chances all but ended when Abdulkareem Ali was sent off for clashing with Esteghlal's Javad Nekonam, SubstituteArash Borhani easily penetrated Al Rayyan's weakened defense and then wrong-footing Barry to make it 3-0.

Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia moved three points clear of Al Ain in the race for the other knockout place in Group D with a 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates side.

Salem al-Dawsari gave the hosts a perfect start when he scored four minutes into the match and Wesley capped a fine move that extended its advantage in the 24th.

The recently-crowned UAE champions enjoyed the majority of possession the rest of the match but missed several good opportunities _ the best one coming when Ghana international Asamoah Gyan sent an open header wide in the first half.

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