At the halfway stage of the AFC Champions League group phase, only China's Shandong Luneng and Al Wahda of United Arab Emirates have been able to maintain completely unblemished records.
The duo stayed perfect after Wednesday's third round matches, with the Chinese double winners running out 4-0 victors over visiting Vietnamese outfit Dong Tam Long An at the same times as Al Wahda were claiming a 2-1 away win over Iraqi side Al Zawra'a.
Although Shandong held on to pole position in Group G, their supporters in Jinan had to wait until three minutes from the break for the opening goal, Han Peng slotting home clinically following a cutback by Cui Peng. The same towering striker then doubled his team's lead only seven minutes into the second half, heading powerfully past Dong Tam Long's Brazilian goalkeeper Santos. The home side proved unstoppable in the closing stages, with Wang Yongpo adding the third only two minutes later before Li Jinyu sealed a 4-0 victory with a spectacular diving header 16 minutes from time.
It was a different story for Al Wahda though, who needed to count on a late goal from Basheer Saeed to dispatch the resilient Iraqi champions. Having weathered a storm of Al Zawra'a attacks in the opening minutes, the Abu Dhabi side were fortunate to take the lead against the run of play through Abdulraheem Juma after 13 minutes. However, the home side refused to lie down and succeeded in restoring parity shortly after the interval, only to suffer some late heartbreak when Saeed netted a dramatic winner for the visitors.
With maximum points from three matches, coupled with a five-point lead over their respective nearest group rivals, Shandong and Al Wahda are now within touching distance of a place in the last eight.
Japanese eye breakthrough
The J.League has long been regarded as one of Asia's most successful top flights, but the fortunes of Japanese sides at continental level have tended to belie this, with none of the country's participants having succeeded in progressing beyond the group stage since the Champions League's inception in 2003. This time around, however, their two representatives, Urawa Reds and Kawasaki Frontale, are well placed to break new ground.
Fans across Japan certainly enjoyed an exciting night as the two teams maintained their impressive unbeaten run with vital victories. Urawa Reds edged out visiting Shanghai Shenhua of China 1-0 to top their group, with Yuki Abe scoring the only goal two minutes before the break. The Japanese league champions are currently three points clear of second placed Sydney FC, whose away fixture against Indonesian side Persik Kediri was postponed due to heavy rain.
Meanwhile, two Brazilians stood out in Kawasaki Frontale's 3-1 away victory over Korean Republic giants Chunnam Dragons , a result that left the Japanese side top of their group. Juninho bagged a brace and his compatriot Magnum Tavares also found the target, leaving Kang Min-Soo's last-minute strike of little consolation to the disappointed hosts.
Elsewhere, two Saudi Arabian clubs, Al Shabab and Al Hilal, both won to lead their respective sections. Away at Tashkent's Army Stadium, Al Hilal registered a hard-fought 2-0 against Uzbekistan's league champions Pakhtakor, both goals coming in the space of five second half minutes from Omar Al Ghamdi and Rodrigo. The teams will meet again on Saudi soil in a fortnight's time, and a victory for Al Hilal will further cement their place as group leaders.
As for Al Shabab, they remain top of an imposing group that also features traditional favourites Al Ain of UAE and Sepahan of Iran, this following a 4-0 demolition of Al Ittihad of Syria. The emphatic nature of the victory took them clear on goal difference from Sepahan, with whom they remain level on points.
2007 AFC Champions League Matchday 3 results
Al Zawra'a (IRQ) 1-2 Al Wahda (UAE)
Al Arabi (KUW) 1-1 Al Rayyan (QAT)
Pakhtakor (UZB) 0-2 Al Hilal (KSA)
Al Sadd (QAT) 2-0 Neftchi (UZB)
Al Karama (SYR) 1-1 Al Najaf (IRQ)
Al Ain (UAE) 3-2 Sepahan (IRN)
Al Shabab (KSA) 4-0 Al Ittihad (SYR)
Urawa Reds (JPN) 1-0 Shanghai Shenhua (CHN)
Bangkok University (THA) 0-0 Arema Malang (IDN)
Chunnam Dragons (KOR) 1-3 Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
Shandong Luneng (CHN) 4-0 Dong Tam Long An (VIE)
Adelaide United (AUS) 2-2 Seongnam Chunma (KOR)