Chinese teams enjoyed a great night in the opening round of the AFC Champions League action today, as Tianjin Teda battled past Jeju United and Hangzhou Greentown shocked Nagoya Grampus. In the other match of the evening in the east Asia side of the draw, Gamba Osaka thrashed a woeful Melbourne Victory 5-1.
Yu Dabao's predatory second-half strike was enough to give Tianjin a hard-fought 1-0 away win over K-League runners-up Jeju in Group E in the opening match of Asia's premier club tournament. Tianjin coach Arie Haan hailed his side's victory as a significant result for Chinese football, especially as Chinese Super League teams lost all nine of their meetings against K-League opposition last year.
"The ability of Chinese teams has improved a lot and I hope that this result helps to show that," said former China national team boss Haan. "If they keep trying hard and working hard they can continue to get good results in the future."
Jeju were making their debut in the tournament and while they were on top for most of the game, they were caught out by a classic counter-attack ten minutes after the break. Zhang Xiaobin broke free down the right and curled an inviting cross towards the near post for fellow forward Yu to hook in from close range.
Jeju battled to find a way back but struggled to create any clear chances in the face of a well-organised Tianjin defence, as the Chinese side held on to put an early three points on the board in Group E.
Jeju coach Park Kyong-Hoon said: "We controlled the game for 90 minutes but the opposition had one chance and scored. It was disappointing to lose at home in our first game this season but there are still enough games remaining."
There was more unexpected good news for Chinese teams in Group F, where two second-half goals were enough to ease Hangzhou Greentown past J.League champions Nagoya Grampus. Honduran striker Luis Ramirez and Bali Maimaitiyili did the damage for the hosts.
In Group E, the 2008 Asian champions Gamba charged into a 3-0 lead against Melbourne after just 11 minutes courtesy of goals from Takuya Takei, Brazilian striker Adriano and Lee Keun-Ho at the Expo Stadium. Kevin Muscat pulled one back for the visitors from the penalty spot but Takahiro Futagawa made it 4-1 midway through the second-half before substitute Kim Seung-Yong completed the rout with a headed fifth in injury time.
A pair of 88th-minute equalisers saw both of the opening games in Group B end in draws later on Tuesday. Uzbek powerhouses Pakhtakor led 2-1 at home to Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia when Serbian centre-back Bojan Miladinovic put through his own goal with two minutes to play to give the visitors a share of the spoils.
There was similar late drama in the other game, with former Lille and Lyon striker Abdul Kader Keita pouncing at the death to secure a 1-1 draw for Qatari giants Al Sadd at two-time champions Esteghlal of Iran.
"From my point of view, the pressure was more applied by Esteghlal at the beginning of the game, but it only lasted until we gained our self-confidence," said Al Sadd's Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati. "With all the respect I have for Esteghlal and their fans, I would say Al Sadd could have won the game."
Iranian champions Sepahan took charge of Group A with a 2-1 victory at their Saudi Arabian counterparts Al Hilal, while the other group game between Al Jazira of UAE and Qatari outfit Al Gharafa finished goalless.