Japan's Vissel Kobe recorded an effortless 2-0 win over Chinese giants Shanghai SIPG FC on Monday to book a place in the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League, but will be sweating over the availability of key playmaker Andres Iniesta ahead of Thursday's last eight clash.
The FC Barcelona great scored the opening goal for Vissel in the first half before Daigo Nishi sealed the victory in the second period. Soon after, 36-year-old Iniesta pulled up with a thigh muscle strain and replaced in the 68th minute of the match.
The Spanish midfielder contributed to three of the six goals Vissel have scored in the tournament so far -- but those numbers do not do justice to Iniesta's influence on the pitch during Kobe's debut campaign in the Asian Champions League.
Head coach Atsuhiro Miura will also be worried about fullback Gotoku Sakai who received a stamp on his knee from Fu Huan in the dying minutes and hit the deck immediately at the final whistle.
Injuries aside, Vissel easily handled a disjointed Shanghai SIPG squad whose imports Oscar and Aaron Mooy were far from their best. Hulk missed the game altogether as the outgoing star's relationship with manager Vítor Pereira continued to sour.
Vissel broke the game open just past the half-hour mark when Iniesta received a pass from Hotaru Yamaguchi at the edge of the box, skipped past Shanghai's defenders, and fired in a low drive that slipped through the fingers of goalkeeper Chen Wei.
The advantage was doubled five minutes into the second period when Nishi poked in a cross from Kyogo Furuhashi, who will now be expected to be the team's live wire from the middle of if Iniesta remains on the sidelines during the later stages of the Champions League.
Yokohama squander opportunity as Suwon scrape through
Yokohama, the 2019 J1 League champions, were the favourites to progress to the quarterfinals after dominating group play. They took an early lead in the 20th minute when Erik Lima turned in a cross from Teruhito Nakagawa.
Yokohama had several more opportunities to increase their lead and put the game to bed in the first half. In the 33rd minute, the Nakagawa found Erik unmarked in the box, but the Brazilian failed to score with the goal at his mercy.
Five minutes later, Erik led a counter and tried to go all the way, but his effort missed the mark as the first 45 minutes ended with no more goals. Suwon, however, came into the second half a more cohesive group and Lim Sang-hyub forced a save out of Yokohama custodian Powell Obinna Obi soon after restart.
Kim Tae-hwan's left-footed strike from distance leveled the score a few minutes later leaving Ange Postecoglou and his side stunned. Suwon captain Kim Min-woo then gave the Bluewings the lead by collecting a back-heeled return from Kim Gun-hee inside the box and finishing past Powell to make it 2-1.
A third for the South Koreans came three minutes from time when Han Seok-jong lobbed the Yokohama goalkeeper from the centre circle to score. Though Yokohama pulled one back through Ado Onaiwu in the dying minutes, it proved too little, too late for the Japanese side.
Vissel Kobe and Suwon will now join China's Beijing Guoan FC and South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai FC in the quarterfinals of the East Zone of AFC Champions League 2020. The draw will be held on Tuesday.