The opening to the 2015 AFC Champions League group-stage saw a statement of intent from China PR with all four representatives boasting perfect records after the opening matchday. Among them were ambitious 2013 winners Guangzhou Evergrande who provided Fabio Cannavaro with a win on his continental debut. So too, some of the Asia’s biggest names got off to winning starts including last year’s finalists Western Sydney Wanderers and Al Hilal.

The match
Kashima Antlers 1-3 Western Sydney Wanderers
Rarely, if ever, in the history of the competition has a club opened their title-defence in such poor form as Western Sydney Wanderers. The A-League outfit have won just once in 17 domestic league and cup matches dating back to last April, yet somehow they managed to overcome the J-League’s most successful club in their own backyard. The Wanderers seemed set for a hard-won point only to then score with four minutes remaining, with an added-time sealer securing a 3-1 win. As was the case last year, it seems the Wanderers reserve their best form for Asia. In the other Group H match, a lone strike from record-signing Ricardo Goulart gave Guangzhou Evergrande an important three points against visiting FC Seoul.

The surprise
Buriram United 2-1 Seongnam FC
It is getting harder and harder to describe any result by Thailand’s Buriram United as a surprise. Two years ago they were the fairytale story of the campaign with a run to the quarter-finals, while last year they fell agonisingly short of passage to the knockout stage. The latest scalp claimed by the Thai champions was achieved thanks to two first-half goals in as many minutes which proved enough to see off two-time Asian champions Seongnam FC. The other Group F result saw debutants Guangzhou R&F continue their fine form from the group stage with a 2-0 away win at 2008 champs Gamba Osaka.

The other attractions
Group A opened with a solid 3-0 win for Iran’s Persepolis over Michael Laudrup’s Lekhwiya of Qatar, in the Tehran giants’ first continental match for three years. There was a stalemate in the other fixture as Saudi club Al Nassr were held 1-1 at home by Bunyodkor.

Fellow Uzbeks Pakhtakor faired even better in their Group B opener defeating Naft Tehran 2-1 with a late Igor Sergeev winner. 2014 semi-finalists Al Ain, missing the creative talents of the absent Omar Abdulrahman, were unable to break down visiting Saudi side Al Shabab and had to settle for a scoreless stalemate.

Group C has 2014 runners-up Al Hilal on top after a 3-1 win over Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh. 2011 champs Al Sadd of Qatar collected a hard-fought scoreless draw in Iran against Foolad.

Nasaf ensured it would be a good opening matchday for Uzbekistan representatives as they moved top of Group D with a 2-1 comeback win over Tractor Sazi. There were goals aplenty in Dubai as United Arab Emirates champions Al Ahli equalised three times for a 3-3 draw against their Saudi namesake. Ismail al-Hamadi struck twice for the Emirati side after the Saudis had gone ahead three times.

China’s Shandong Luneng denied Vietnamese outsiders Binh Duong a dream start in Group E with the Chinese side forced to come from behind, before eventually relying on a winner ten minutes from time by two-goal hero Yang Xu. There was far less drama in Korea Republic as local champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were held to a scoreless draw by Kashiwa Reysol.

Finally, to Group G where ten-man Beijing Guoan needed an unlikely injury-time winner against Brisbane Roar to make it a perfect start for Chinese Super League sides. Suwon Bluewings required late intervention from Brazilian forward Leo to secure all three points in a 2-1 comeback win over Urawa Red Diamonds.

The player
Western Sydney Wanderers forward Mark Bridge has a habit of delivering on the big stage and he did so again with perfect timing scoring one and providing two assists as under-siege holders somehow found a way to win 3-1 at Kashima Antlers.

The stat
9
- Goals were in short supply across many of the groups with only Group D enlivening matters with nine goals in the two games, highlighted by the six-goal thriller between the UAE and Saudi clubs with the same name, Al Ahli.

The quote
“My team has done a good job, though I expected more. I hope they can do better.” New Guangzhou Evergrande coach Fabio Cannavaro