Matchday 2 of the AFC Champions League saw a series of established sides return to their winning ways despite disappointing in their tournament openers. Notably, Al Ittihad got past Al Ain 2-1 to put their campaign back on track, while Sepahan scraped past Al Hilal to revive their fortunes. 2009 winners Pohang Steelers also picked up their first win of the campaign at Buriram United. FIFA.com looks back on the action across Asia in detail.
Game of the week
Sepahan 3-2 Al Hilal
Two-time runners-up Sepahan from Group D bounced back from the opening 3-1 loss at Al Sadd by edging Al Hilal at home in a 3-2 thriller. The Iranian hosts began as they had wished when captain Moharram Navidkia laid the ball back to Albania midfielder Ervin Bulku to open the scoring. The lead lasted just ten minutes though, when Segundo Castillo got his head on Thiago Neves' corner to draw the visitors level. Al Hilal then went ahead five minutes later when the provider turned scorer by curling a corner over the keeper and into the net.
Spurred on by the vociferous home crowd, Sepahan were firing on all cylinders after the restart and youngster Mehdi Sharifi drew the home side level with a long-range effort. Sepahan then spurned a golden chance to reclaim the lead when Hadi Aghily missed a penalty-kick. However, Xhevahir Sukaj eased the hosts' worries by sealing the hard-fought triumph with an injury-time strike. The three points moved Sepahan into the second place behind leaders Al Sadd, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Al Ahli.
Cerezo Osaka 1-3 Shandong Luneng
Brazil forward Vagner Love struck twice as Group E's Shandong Luneng defeated hosts Cerezo Osaka to avenge their 4-0 defeat at the same stage in 2011. Three years ago, the two sides met in the final group stage match, with Cerezo needing just a point to progress, while Shandong faced a must-win. That showdown ended in an emphatic victory in Cerezo's favour, with the Japanese side grabbing the section's second qualifying spot at the expense of Shandong.
In a game largely dominated by the visitors, Brazil midfielder Aloisio opened the scoring for the Chinese side inside five minutes before compatriot Love doubled the lead on 27 minutes. The former CSKA Moscow marksman then made it 3-0 on 56 minutes with his second to put the game beyond any doubts, leaving Yoichiro Kakitani's late effort nothing more than just a consolation. The triumph moved Shandong level on points with Pohang Steelers, who overcame hosts Buriram United by 2-1 in Group E’s other match-up.
The other attractions
Group A's Al Jazira became the first club from the United Arab Emirates to win a Champions League game in Saudi Arabia. Having never won on four previous visits to the Kingdom, Al Jazira got their fifth attempt off to a dream start with goals from Ali Mabkhout and Abdulla Qasem gave the visitors a 2-0 lead within 12 minutes. Ahmed Otafy pulled one back for the hosts after the restart but Jucelei sealed the win shortly thereafter. In the group’s second game of the week, Esteghlal suffered a shock 1-0 at the hands of Al Rayyan at home.
Group B side Bunyodkor saw their hopes severely dented after losing to El Jaish by 2-1 at home. Brazil forward Nilmar bagged a brace as the Qataris won away to move atop the group, level with Foolad, who downed Al Fateh at home with captain Rahmani Bakhtiar scoring the only goal from the spot.
In Group C, the titanic clash between Al Ittihad and Al Ain ended in the hosts' favour, with the Saudi giants prevailing 2-1. Things went well for the visitors in the first half when Asamoah Gyan gave them the lead on 38 minutes before Khaled Eisa saved Mukhtar Fallatah's penalty on the stroke of half-time. But Al Ittihad hit back after the interval and despite the missed spot-kick fresh in his mind, Fallatah scored twice in a space of eight minutes to hand his side a hard-fought victory. In another match, Sebastian Soria also missed a penalty as his Lekhwiya played out a goalless draw against Tractor Sazi at home.
In a re-match of the sides' Round of 16 first-leg meeting last year, Group F's FC Seoul negotiated another draw at Beijing Guoan, although they had to battle from behind to hold the hosts to a 1-1 tie. Peter Utaka put Beijing ahead on 20 minutes only to see substitute Go Yohan equalise late. In the group’s other match, Mile Sterjovski struck a brace in the span of nine minutes as Central Coast Mariners came from behind to see off Sanfrecce Hiroshima by 2-1.
Stalemates dominated Group G with Guangzhou Evergrande and Jeonbok Motors held to respective draws. In the process, Marcello Lippis's reigning champions narrowly escaped away defeat at Yokohama F. Marinos with Alessandro Diamanti cancelling out Jin Hanato's tap-in with a superb free-kick. Jeonbuk, too, conceded a first-half goal but two quick strikes from Lee Donggook in the second half put them in front. The lead, however, proved to be short-lived as Kosta Barbarouses scored from an acute angle to seal a point for the hosts.
Group H's Ulsan Hyundai maintained their unblemished record with a 2-0 home defeat of Kawasaki Frontale. But the 2012 winners were indebted to shot-stopper Kim Seunggyu who pulled off a series of fine saves to keep the rivals at bay. It was not until the 85th minute when Yoo Junsoo broke the deadlock with a header, before Kim Shinwook settled the contest with a stoppage-time effort. Elsewhere, Mark Bridge scored the only goal as Western Sydney Wanderers edged hosts Guizhou Renhe.
Evergreen Korean international striker Lee Donggook has showed his goal-scoring form has not deserted him despite being 34-years-old. With two of the matchday's finest strikes - the first an improvisation and the second a long-range effort - the 2011 edition's top-scorer extended his Champions League tally to a total of 21 goals.
2- Only two contenders, Al Jazira and Ulsan Hyundai, managed to maintain their 100 per cent record after Matchday 2.
What they said
"This is a very proud moment for the club and a famous victory for the Central Coast Mariners and the A-League. We deserved the result. We played quality football," said Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss
Matchday 2 results
11 & 12 March
Group A: Al Rayyan 1-0 Esteghlal, Al Shabab 1-3 Al Jazira
Group B: Bunyodkor 1-2 El Jaish, Foolad 1-0 Al Fateh
Group C: Lekhwiya 0-0 Tractor Sazi, Al Ittihad 2-1 Al Ain
Group D: Sepahan 3-2 Al Hilal, Al Ahli 1-1 Al Sadd
Group E: Cerezo Osaka 1-3 Shandong Luneng, Buriram United 1-2 Pohang Steelers
Group F: Beijing Guoan 1-1 FC Seoul, Central Coast Mariners 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Group G: Melbourne Victory 2-2 Jeonbuk Motors, Yokohama F. Marinos 1-1 Guangzhou Evergrande
Group H: Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 Kawasaki Frontale, Guizhou Renhe 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers