Uruguay veteran Forlan shines for Cerezo
Diego Forlan (L) of Japan's Cerezo Osaka celebrates after scoring a goal after against China's Shandong Luneng FC during their AFC Champions League group E first round match at the Jinan Olympic Sports Centre in Jinan, April 23, 2014
Forlan, who turns 35 next month but is expected to figure at this year's World Cup, grabbed the decisive goal shortly after half-time as Cerezo won their final group game 2-1 to reach the knockout stages.
It was Forlan's most telling contribution since the ex-Manchester United, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid and Internacional striker arrived in January on reported record wages of $5.8 million a year.
Forlan has insisted his move to Japan will not hurt his chances of World Cup selection, and he gave Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez a reminder of his qualities with his second Champions League goal.
Brazilian forward Vagner Love had put Shandong ahead from the penalty spot in the first half, but the Japanese visitors turned the tables with two goals within three minutes of the restart.
Yoichiro Kakitani put Cerezo level before Forlan, receiving a cross from the left, had space on the edge of the box to thump home an emphatic finish and secure their only away win in Group E.
Cerezo's reward is a last-16 match-up against Marcello Lippi’s defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande, who booked their place in the knock-out stage on Tuesday.
Pohang Steelers, who topped Group E and frustrated Thailand's Buriram United 0-0 on Wednesday, will play fellow South Korean former winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the next round.
FC Seoul beat Beijing Guoan 2-1 to set up a clash with Kawasaki Frontale, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima edged 10-man Central Coast Mariners 1-0 and will next face Western Sydney Wanderers.
In the South Korean capital, man-of-the-match Kang Seung-Jo put FC Seoul ahead two minutes before the break and Yoon Ju-Tae doubled their advantage on 56 minutes.
Beijing's Yu Yang pulled one back after a goalmouth scramble with two minutes remaining, but Seoul held on to finish top of Group F with three wins from six games.
They were joined by Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who reached the knock-outs for the first time after Tsukasa Shiotani's free-kick on 72 minutes gave them a narrow win over Australia's Central Coast Mariners.
The Australian side had Brent Griffiths sent off for a foul on Naoki Ishihara midway through the second half, before Shiotani’s dead-ball kick was deflected into the Mariners’ net.
FC Seoul and Sanfrecce’s wins settled a tight Group F, in which all four teams had been within just two points of each other ahead of the final games.
In Group E, already qualified Pohang Steelers repelled waves of attacks from Buriram United, who failed in their attempt to reach the eliminators for the second year running.
And the 2009 champions had the best chances when, in the second half, Yoon Jun-Sung’s header was brilliantly tipped onto the bar and Moon Chang-Jin had a goal ruled out for offside.
In West Asia, Qatari side El Jaish crashed out in unfortunate fashion after a last-minute goal by S. Sabir Khodjaev gave Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor a 2-1 victory in Doha.
El Jaish needed only a draw to become the second team to qualify from Group B, but Khodjaev's strike off a poor clearance saw the Uzbek side advance as they had scored seven goals against their Qatari rivals’ six after both teams were locked on eight points with a zero goal difference.
Earlier, Mohamed Muntari had scored a 52nd minute equaliser for El Jaish after Sergiy Symonenko had put the visitors ahead in the 13th minute.
Iran's Foolad Khouzestan, who had already qualified, thrashed Saudi Arabia's Al Fateh 5-1, thanks to a hat-trick by Luciano Chimba.
In Group A, UAE’s Al Jazira took the second spot and made the last 16 despite a 2-1 defeat by Saudi’s Al Shabab who had already qualified.
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