By Michael Church
HONG KONG, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Talking points from the week in Asian football:
ASIA BIG GUNS RECORD EASY WINS IN WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
Japan, South Korea, Australia, Iran and Saudi Arabia all recorded comfortable wins as the second phase of Asia’s preliminaries for the 2026 World Cup got underway.
Ayase Ueda’s hat-trick sparked Japan’s 5-0 win over Myanmar in Osaka while Jamie Maclaren also scored three times in Australia’s 7-0 win over Bangladesh in Melbourne.
Iran downed Hong Kong 4-0, with Sardar Azmoun scoring twice, Son Heung-min was on the scoresheet in South Korea’s 5-0 win over Singapore, and Saudi Arabia kicked off their campaign with a 4-0 victory over Pakistan.
AL-ITTIHAD APPOINT GALLARDO TO REPLACE NUNO
Saudi Arabian champions Al-Ittihad have named Argentine Marcelo Gallardo as coach following the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo, the club said.
Gallardo returns to management after leaving River Plate last year as the club’s most successful coach and takes over at an Al-Ittihad side that are fifth in the Saudi Pro League with only one win in their last six games.
“The Board of Directors of Al-Ittihad announces the signing of a new coaching staff, led by the Argentinian Marcelo Gallardo, to coach the football first team with a contract extending for a year and a half,” the club said.
CRESPO TAKES OVER FROM SCHREUDER AT UAE’s AL-AIN
Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates have appointed Hernan Crespo as the club’s new coach, replacing Dutchman Alfred Schreuder at the helm.
The former Argentina striker was previously in charge at Qatar’s Al-Duhail, who he led to the semi-finals of last season’s Asian Champions League.
“I’m very proud to be part of our club,” Crespo told Al-Ain’s official media. “We need everybody, (the fans’) support to reach our goals.”
AUSTRALIA TEEN IRANKUNDA INKS LONG-TERM CONTRACT WITH BAYERN
Bayern Munich announced the signing of Australian 17-year-old Nestory Irankunda from A-League club Adelaide United.
The Tanzania-born winger will remain with Adelaide until July 1, when he will join the German champions on a long-term contract.
“It’s a club record transfer fee,” said Adelaide’s CEO Nathan Kosmina. “But it was very much a considered process. We had interest from all over the world, the top five leagues in Europe. Clubs are very interested in Nestor.”
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Peter Rutherford )