Korea Republic emerged the biggest victors in Matchday 2 of the 2011 AFC Champions League with all four participants prevailing over their respective rivals. Leading the way were Suwon Samsung Bluewings, who swept past Shanghai Shenhua 4-0 at home, while 2006 winners Jeonbuk Motors recorded an identical victory at Arema Indonesia.
On the other side of the continent it was Saudi Arabia clubs impressing, three of whom won their respective games with only Al Shabab sharing the spoils with Zob Ahan in a goalless draw.
Conversely, it proved a disappointing Matchday for Iran, with Sepahan their only triumphant team after trouncing Al Jazira 5-1 at home. Esteghlal were edged out 2-1 by Saudi club Al Nassr, while Persepolis spurned a host of clear-cut chances to only draw against visiting Al Wahda.
Elsewhere, only two Japanese sides were active following last Friday's devastating earthquake. Gamba and Cerezo, both from Osaka, travelled to China only to suffer defeat at the hands of Tianjin Teda and Shandong Luneng respectively. Despite celebrating two wins, China’s clubs endured a mixed round after Shanghai and Hangzhou Greentown lost heavily to Suwon and FC Seoul.
The big game
Bunyodkor 0-1 Al Ittihad
Goal: Osama Al Harbi, 34
Having lost two and drawn one of their four previous meetings with Bunyodkor, and crashing out at the hands of the Uzbeks in two of the past three campaigns, it was indeed sweet revenge for Al Ittihad this time around against their bogey team. The Saudis came away from Tashkent with a solitary-goal victory to maintain a perfect record at the top of Group C. Seeking to build on their better head-to-head record, the home side pressed forward from the outset with Victor Karpenko close to opening the scoring before Shavkat Salamov spurned a gilt-edged opportunity. The hosts were punished for their profligacy before the half-time break as Osama Al Harbi out-jumped Askar Jadigerov to head home in what proved the decisive moment of the match.
Tianjin Teda 2-1 Gamba Osaka
Goals: Chen Tao, 25, Cao Yang, 53 (PK); Lee Keun-Ho, 31
Group E surprise package Tianjin produced arguably the biggest upset of the round with a hard-fought 2-1 home win over Japan’s Gamba Osaka. The 2008 winners displayed their quality a fortnight ago with a remarkable 5-1 opening defeat of Melbourne Victory. However the J.League club’s visit to China proved a very different proposition with Chen Tao the hero for the hosts. The Tianjin forward firstly broke the deadlock with a beautifully-curled effort from 30 yards midway through the opening half, and, although Gamba equalised soon courtesy of Lee, Chen earned a second-half penalty from which Cao Yang sealed the win. Tianjin may have claimed three points on the night but it was Gamba, like their city rivals Cerezo, who displayed impressive courage and fortitude in merely taking to the pitch following the recent natural disaster in their homeland.
Renowned French coach Bruno Metsu began his reign at Qatar’s Al Gharafa in miserable fashion with a 1-0 home defeat to Al Hilal. The result moved the Saudi giants second in Group A behind Sepahan, who have two wins to their name.
Also disappointing were the Uzbek duo who have remained winless after two rounds. With Bunyodkor floundering against Al Ittihad, perennial Champions League participants Pakhtakor were also found lacking against Qatari hosts Al Sadd, who scraped through 2-1 as substitute Ali Afif headed home a second-half winner. The three hard-won points keeps Al Sadd at the top of Group B alongside Al Nassr with four points apiece.
After being humiliated at Gamba in the opener, Melbourne Victory entered this round seeking to defend A-League pride, with Sydney FC's game against Kashima Antlers postponed. However the Australian club's campaign is now teetering on the edge after conceding a late goal against Jeju United to lose 2-1. The result, coupled with Tianjin's victory over Gamba, saw the Chinese topping Group E ahead of both Gamba and Jeju who are level on three points, while Melbourne have been cast adrift at the bottom.
Elsewhere, Hangzhou Greentown were brought back to earth following their impressive conquering of Japanese champions Nagoya Grampus a fortnight ago. The Chinese side, making their debut in the competition, had no answer to FC Seoul's fierce attack with the K-League champions 3-0 victors.
Ha Tae-Gyun became the first player in this season's competition to claim a hat-trick as Suwon hit four unanswered goals past Shanghai Shenhua. In doing so, the 23-year-old displayed the kind of form that saw him collect the 2007 K-League Rookie of the Year award.
6 of the eight joint second top-scorers in the competition are players originating from outside Asia.
What they said
"We created numerous chances and we should have scored three or four more goals but unfortunately we can't finish well. I think I'd better lose 10 or 15 kilos to play up front and help score," Persepolis coach Ali Daei.
2011 AFC Champions League Matchday 2 results:
Tuesday 15 & Wednesday 16 March
Group A: Al Gharafa 0-1 Al Hilal, Sepahan 5-1 Al Jazira
Group B: Al Nassr 2-1 Esteghlal, Al Sadd 2-1 Pakhtakor
Group C: Bunyodkor 0-1 Al Ittihad, Persepolis 1-1 Al Wahda
Group D: Emirates 2-0 Al Rayyan, Al Shabab 0-0 Zob Ahan
Group E: Melbourne Victory 1-2 Jeju United, Tianjin Teda 2-1 Gamba Osaka
Group F: FC Seoul 3-0 Hangzhou Greentown
Group G: Shandong Luneng 2-0 Cerezo Osaka, Arema Indonesia 0-4 Jeonbuk Motors
Group H: Suwon Bluewings 4-0 Shanghai Shenhua
Group F: Nagoya Grampus-Al Ain
Group H: Kashima Antlers-Sydney FC