It was a day of surprises in Asia as several of the AFC Champions League favourites suffered stunning setbacks in Wednesday's second round matches.
Few found themselves worse off than Al Ain of United Arab Emirates, the tournament's inaugural winners, who were left languishing at the bottom of Group D following a goalless draw away to Syria's Al Ittihad . With just one point from their opening two matches, the nine-time UAE champions now face a must-win match against group leaders Sepahan of Iran in two weeks' time.
Al Karama, last year's runners-up, are also in a precarious position after ending up on the receiving end of a shock 2-1 away defeat to Neftchi of Uzbekistan, who are currently dominating the group on maximum points. The Syrian side will hope, however, that they can once again use home advantage to see them through their next fixture against Iraqi outfit Najaf. After all, Al Karama were unbeaten in all six home matches during their fairytale run to last year's final, and they can still escape from their section provided the Khaled Ibn Al Waleed Stadium is still the impenetrable fortress it was last time around.
Shandong lead the way
Of the nine teams who registered wins in this round of matches, Shandong Luneng would appear to stand out. Having opened their campaign with an impressive 1-0 away win over Adelaide United of Australia a fortnight ago, Shandong once again showed that they have both the quality and mentality to advance by edging Korean giants Seongnam Chunma 2-1 to cement their place at the top of Group G.
Seongnam had the lion's share of possession and looked the better side in the first half, but the tide turned after the break when the hosts took the lead through a 62nd-minute penalty, earned by Han Peng and converted by Aleksandar Zivkovic. Cho Byung-Kuk looked to have secured a point when he equalised with 13 minutes remaining, but Shandong remained focused on their goal and sealed the win just over a minute later. Jiao Zhe broke down the right and his inch-perfect cross was met by Wang Yongpo, who scored the goal of the day with a spectacular bicycle kick.
Joining Shandong on maximum points from two games are Group D pace-setters Sepahan. The Iranian cup holders picked up their second win, 1-0 away to Al Shabab, thanks to an 83rd-minute strike from Seyed Mohamad Salehi, the 25-year-old striker's third goal in two games, leaving him top of the tournament scoring charts.
Shenhua slain in Indonesia
Elsewhere, there were a couple of veritable David and Goliath stories as two Southeastern outsiders stole the show, Persik Kediri of Indonesia registering their first victory against Shanghai Shenhua of China and Bangkok University returning home with a point from their match against Japanese giants Kawasaki Frontale.
The little-known Persik Kediri certainly pulled off the biggest surprise of the day as second half substitute Bertha Yuana Putra scored the only goal of the match on 71 minutes to secure an historic win for the Indonesian league champions. Visiting Shenhua had their best chance on 64th minute following a lightning break, but with only the goalkeeper to beat, Mao Jianqing couldn't direct his shot on target. That miss proved costly for the Chinese heavyweights as the hosts broke the deadlock only seven minutes later when Kusnul Kurniawan picked out the unmarked Bertha Putra, who unleashed a ferocious drive past goalkeeper Zhang Chen.
With this hard-fought victory, Persik Kediri emphatically erased the memories of their only previous foray into the AFC Champions League back in 2004, when they suffered an incredible 15-0 demolition at the hands of Seongnam Chunma. They are currently third in Group E behind Sydney FC and Urawa Reds, who fought out a 2-2 draw , with pointless Shenhua anchored to the bottom.
In Japan, the much-fancied Kawasaki Frontale had a Patiparn Phetphun own goal to thank for sparing their blushes against Bangkok University . The visiting students took the lead through Suriya Domtaisong after only seven minutes, and despite playing with 10 men for the last 32 minutes, they held on bravely until 12 minutes from time, when Masaru Kurotsu's cross was directed past his own goalkeeper by the unfortunate Phetphun.
AFC Champions League 2007 Matchday 2 results
Al Wahda (UAE) 4-1 Al Arabi (KUW)
Al Zawra'a (IRQ) 0-0 Al Rayyan (QAT)
Al Kuwait (KUW) 0-1 Pakhtakor (UZB)
Neftchi (UZB) 2-1 Al Karama (SYR)
Al Sadd (QAT) 1-4 Al Najaf (IRQ)
Al Ittihad (SYR) 0-0 Al Ain (UAE)
Al Shabab (KSA) 0-1 Sepahan (IRN)
Sydney FC (AUS) 2-2 Urawa Reds (JPN)
Persik Kediri (IDN) 1-0 Shanghai Shenhua (CHN)
Chunnam Dragons (KOR) 2-0 Arema Malang (IDN)
Kawasaki Frontale (JPN) 1-1 Bangkok University (THA)
Dong Tam Long An (VIE) 0-2 Adelaide United (AUS)
Shandong Luneng (CHN) 2-1 Seongnam Chunma(KOR)