Home advantage again played a telling factor in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals as three teams, Al Ittihad, Shanghai Shenhua and Ulsan Horang-I emerged victorious on home soil, leaving 11-time Kuwaiti league champions Al Qadisiya the only team not to record a win, as they drew 2-2 with Al Ain.
Ulsan Horang-I were in fine form against Al Shabab, as they cruised to a 6-0 victory. The result has effectively ended Humberto Coelho's side's hopes of progression to the semi-final stage. Ulsan Horang-I's Korean counterparts, Jeonbuk Motors, fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Shanghai Shenhua. In a hard-fought game, Jeonbuk were reduced to nine men, handing the Chinese side a slender advantage going into the next leg.
Meanwhile, Al Ittihad opened their defence of the continental title with a 2-0 victory over Al Karama. Al Hassane Keita and Jared Borgetti struck either side of half time to hand the initiative to the team from the United Arab Emirates.
The exception to the rule
Asian giants Al Ain took a huge step towards the AFC Champions League semi-finals as they drew 2-2 away at 11-time Kuwaiti champions Al Qadisiya on Wednesday.
Al Ain had Brazilian striker Dodo to thank for grabbing a 66th minute equaliser which gives the 2003 champions and puts last year's runners-up in the driving seat going into next week's quarter-final second leg tie in the Emirates.
Also looking a good bet to reach the last four are Saudi outfit Al Ittihad who beat Syrian giantkillers Al Karameh 2-0 at home with Guinean international Al Hassane Keita and Mexican veteran Jared Borgetti, two of their recent signings by former Paris Saint Germain coach Vahid Halilhodzic, scoring the all-important goals.
It puts them in a great position to move a step closer to winning a third successive title and ending brave Al Karameh's interest in the tournament having already seen off Saba Battery of Iran, Al Wahda of UAE and Al Gharafa of Qatar.
New territory for Shenhua
Shenhua, who had never before been past the group stages of Asia's premier club competition, got the only goal of the game after 32 minutes when Cheng Liang sent over a deep cross from the left flank for Gao to steer home. Chonbuk had Kim Hyeung-Bum sent off for kicking out at Gao four minutes later and were reduced to nine men when substitute Botti elbowed Sun Ji in the face in the 77th minute.
Shenhua, however, were unable to capitalise further and add to their goal tally before next weeks return match in Korea against a side struggling to emerge from a slump, having lost three of their last four fixtures in the K-League.
In contrast, Ulsan have been on a roll of late and entered the match buoyed by winger Lee Chun-Soo's decision to turn down a trial with English Premier League high-flyers Portsmouth.
Al Shabab came to Korea just one game into the defence of their Saudi league title while Ulsan are already beyond the half-way stage in the 2006 K-League and the difference in competitive match sharpness was abundantly clear. Lee Chin-Soo put them one up after 22 minutes, shrugging off his marker to lift the ball over Saudi international keeper Mohammed Khojah and into the net.
Ulsan doubled their lead six minutes later through a Lee Sang-Ho header and went to the break 3-0 ahead when Choi Sung-Kuk scrambled the ball home from the six-yard box. The Korean side took complete control of the game in the second period and rattled in three more to make it a miserable homecoming for Humberto Coelho, the Al Shabab coach who previously led Korea's national team until he resigned in 2004.