The week in Asian football
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[March 20, 2023]  By Michael Church

(Reuters) - Talking points from the week in Asian football:

KOBE RETURN TO WINNING WAYS IN JAPAN WITH VICTORY OVER TOSU

Vissel Kobe bounced back from last week's loss to Urawa Red Diamonds by defeating Sagan Tosu 1-0 on Saturday and open up a two-point gap at the top of the J.League standings.

Toya Izumi scored his first professional goal with a looping, curling right-foot strike from more than 20 yards to give Kobe victory over the hosts.

Kobe moved on to 12 points to pull clear of the chasing pack after second placed Nagoya Grampus were held 0-0 by FC Tokyo.

Defending champions Yokohama F Marinos are level on 10 points with Nagoya after they defeated Kashima Antlers 2-1.

ULSAN SEE OFF SUWON TO MAINTAIN PERFECT START IN KOREA

Reigning champions Ulsan Hyundai maintained their winning start to the new K League campaign with a 3-0 victory over Suwon FC on Sunday.

Hong Myung-bo's side have won all four of their league matches so far this season. Goals from Gustav Ludwigson, Joo Min-kyu and Seol Young-woo earned the former Asian champions a routine win.
 


The victory keeps Hong's side three points clear of second-placed FC Seoul, who beat Jeju United 2-1 on Saturday, while Daegu Citizen moved up to third after handing Suwon Bluewings a 3-1 defeat.

Jeonbuk Motors, winners of the K-League title in seven of the last nine seasons, lost 2-0 to Daegu FC on Sunday and are eighth in the 12-team division with only one win from their first four games.

WANDERERS HAND SYDNEY FOUR-GOAL MAULING IN DERBY DAY WIN

Western Sydney Wanderers recorded their biggest win over Sydney FC when Marko Rudan's side handed their cross-city rivals a 4-0 derby day thrashing on Saturday.

Two goals from Amor Layouni as well as strikes from Kusini Yengi and former Sydney FC midfielder Calem Nieuwenhof earned Wanderers the win to enhance their hopes of progressing to the post-season playoffss for the first time in six years.

"I think it was our best performance of the season," said Rudan. "We're creating a lot of chances."

Wanderers are third, seven points behind leaders Melbourne City, who drew 1-1 with Macarthur FC. Sydney FC are sixth, filling the final qualification spot for the post-season with five games remaining.

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Soccer Football - AFC Champions League - Group J - Kitchee v Vissel Kobe - Chang Arena, Buriram, Thailand - May 1, 2022 Kitchee's Raul Baena celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

RONALDO HANDS PENALTY DUTY TO TEAM MATE TALISCA

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning long-range free kick but handed the task of converting the winning penalty to a team mate as Al-Nassr rallied to beat Abha 2-1 in the Saudi Pro League on Saturday.

The Portuguese forward struck the equaliser in the 78th minute but handed the ball to Brazilian Anderson Talisca for the spot kick eight minutes later.

"This is mutual respect and we are one team and we act like a family," said Talisca, whose 14th goal of the season ensured Al-Nassr kept up the pressure on league leaders Al-Ittihad.

"We all cooperate and the most important thing is the team. In the end, it's all for the benefit of the club."

YOSHIDA, NAGATOMO DROPPED AS JAPAN LOOKS TOWARD YOUTH

Experienced duo Maya Yoshida and Yuto Nagatomo were left out of Japan's squad for this month's friendly matches with Uruguay and Colombia.

Fullback Hiroki Sakai and midfielder Takumi Minamino were also left out of a squad which featured six uncapped players including J.League trio Ryotaro Tsunoda, Kashif Bangnagande and Riku Handa.

"I want to have a bigger, deeper pool of players to enable us to make the strongest national team in the future," said coach Hajime Moriyasu, who led Japan to the knockout rounds at the World Cup.

"I want the players who got their call-ups this time to make their presence felt."

Japan face Uruguay in Tokyo on March 24 before taking on Colombia four days later in Osaka.

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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