Wednesday's opening round of 2007 AFC Champions League fixtures saw 11 teams emerge victorious, and a couple of these triumphs raised more eyebrows than others.
There was, for example, a first Australian victory in Asian club competition as Sydney FC picked up three points with a hard-fought 2-1 away victory against Shanghai Shenhua .
Although faced with tough opposition and a large and partisan home crowd, Sydney started brightly and were two goals up inside 23 minutes. The visitors took the lead on six minutes when David Carney's left-footed cross found Steve Corica, who deftly lobbed the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Wang Dalei. The 2005/06 A-League champions nearly put the game beyond doubt 17 minutes later when Ufuk Talay fired a rocket shot into the top right corner from 25 yards.
However, the hosts pressed hard in the second half and pulled one back through substitute Xie Hui with 13 minutes remaining, the veteran striker popping up to power home a header from Yu Tao's well-taken free-kick. Shenhua threw everyone forward for the equaliser in the remaining minutes, but Sydney kept their cool to hold on to a 2-1 win.
Having appeared in the 2005 FIFA Club World Championship representing Oceania, Sydney FC are now aiming to break new ground by going the distance in this, their inaugural Champions League campaign. However, winning coach Branko Culina was quick to dampen enthusiasm by looking ahead to their next fixture against Japanese champions Urawa Reds, who crushed Indonesians Persik Kediri 3-0 in the group's other gam.
"Our chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals have improved greatly," said Culina, "but (our next game against) Urawa Reds will be more difficult because they are a better team with a good history and depth in their squad."
Agony for Adelaide, Al Ain
Despite Sydney FC's win, it was not an entirely positive first night for Australian clubs as Adelaide United failed to live up to expectations in front of their own fans against Shangdong Luneng. In truth, the Aussies gave as good as they got in an evenly-contested match, but they lacked a cutting edge and were punished when an own goal by Michael Valkanis two minutes into the second half gave the Chinese champions all three points.
In Group F, fellow debutants Arema Malang suffered a 3-1 home defeat in Indonesia to Japanese outfit Kawasaki Frontale, while Korean Republic Cup holders Chunnam Dragons and Bangkok University, both first-timers, fought out a goalless draw in the Thai capital.
Elsewhere, Saudi giants Al Shabab created the biggest surprise of the night as they defeated inaugural winners Al Ain 2-0. The only team of the 28 group stage contenders to have won the title, Al Ain continued their recent below-par performances that see them languishing ninth in UAE's domestic league.
Having squandered a couple of good chances in the first half, the former champions went a goal down when Ghanaian Godwin Attram scored for Al Shabab in first half injury time. Waleed Al Gizani added another in the 72nd minute to seal victory.
Al Ain will now travel to Syria in a fortnight's time looking to keep their hopes alive against Al Ittihad, who themselves lost 2-1 to Iranian outfit Sepahan.
While Al Ain stumbled, the other pre-match favourites generally lived up to their billing. K-League champions Seongnam Chunma, for example, ran out comfortable 4-1 winners against Vietnam's Dong Tam Long An, while Al Karama, last year's runners-up, eked out a 2-1 home win over Al Sadd.
AFC Champions League 2007 Matchday 1 results
Al Arabi (KUW) 0-1 Al Zawra'a (IRQ)
Al Rayyan (QAT) 0-1 Al Wahda (UAE)
Al Hilal (KSA) 1-1 Al Kuwait (KUW)
Al Najaf (IRQ) 0 FT 1 Neftchi (UZB)
Al Karama (SYR) 2 FT 1 Al Sadd (QAT)
Al Ain (UAE) 0-2 Al Shabab (KSA)
Sepahan (IRN) 2-1 Al Ittihad (SYR)
Shanghai Shenhua (CHN) 1-2 Sydney FC (AUS)
Urawa Reds (JPN) 3-0 Persik Kediri (IDN)
Arema Malang (IDN) 1-3 Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
Bangkok University (THA) 0-0 Chunnam Dragons (KOR)
Seongnam Chunma (KOR) 4-1 Dong Tam Long An (VIE)
Adelaide United (AUS) 0-1 Shandong Luneng (CHN)