Pohang revive, Gamba struggle

Defending champions Pohang Steelers put their AFC Champions League challenge back on track on Wednesday with a narrow 2-1 victory, but Japanese powerhouse Gamba Osaka were held 1-1 at home.

Title contenders Al Hilal, meanwhile, put themselves in a commanding position in their group by comfortably beating Mes Kerman 3-0.

Korea Republic's Pohang regained their winning touch after a surprise loss to Adelaide United last week, with a dramatic last few minutes against Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the Steelyard. Pohang looked comfortable after skipper Hwang Jae-Won put them in front with a powerful header on 54 minutes but Sanfrecce defender Tomoaki Makino was brought down in the box with just one minute left.

Bulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov stepped up to convert the penalty but Sanfrecce lost concentration and Pohang struck back in injury time when Brazilian forward Almir prodded home a rebound from a Kim Jae-Sung free-kick. "This was a tough game for us but it was good to see that the players had the belief even after they equalised to keep trying to get the winning goal," said Pohang coach Waldemar Lemos.

This was a tough game for us but it was good to see that the players had the belief even after they equalised to keep trying to get the winning goal.
Pohang coach Waldemar Lemos

A-league side Adelaide top Group H after sweeping to an impressive 2-0 victory over Shandong Luneng in China, with a goal in each half from Sergio van Dijk and Matthew Leckie. "It was a great win. I think it was really important that we backed up from our good win against Pohang," said Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar.

In Osaka, 2008 champions Gamba were held by China's Henan Jianye, leaving them with just two points from two games after drawing last week against Suwon Bluewings. It was a disappointing effort from a team that was desperate to assert itself after losing in the J.League over the weekend.

Zhang Lu gave the visitors the lead after four minutes when he proved quickest to react after goalkeeper Atsushi Kimura failed to gather a shot from Senegalese forward Amado Dialo. The scores were levelled when striker Lucas was hacked down in the penalty area, with the Brazilian dusting himself off to convert the penalty 10 minutes before the break.

"Without that goal early in the game, the game would have gone differently," said Gamba boss Akira Nishino. "If we let our opponents go ahead this can happen."

The other match in the group saw Korea's Suwon Bluewings beat a 10-man Singapore Armed Forces 2-0, with goals from Brazilians Juninho and Jose Mota capping an accomplished display.

Saudi giants Al Hilal moved three points clear at the top of Group D after beating Mes Kerman of Iran 3-0 in Riyadh. Hilal, who secured the 2009/10 Saudi league title in January, took a third-minute lead through Swedish international winger Christian Wilhelmsson.

Defender Osama Hawsawi doubled their advantage in the 15th minute before Yasser Al Qahtani made the points safe for Eric Gerets' side in the 81st minute. Former Iran forward Ali Samereh scored an injury-time consolation for the visitors.

Qatari side Al Sadd piled on the misery for Henk ten Cate's Al Ahli in the group's other fixture with a 5-0 victory at the Al Rashid Stadium in Dubai. Al Ahli lost 4-2 at Mes Kerman in their opening group match and were well beaten by Al Sadd, for whom Brazilian striker Leandro netted a hat-trick.

In-form Saudi outfit Al Shabab took charge of Group C by defeating previous leaders Pakhtakor 3-1 in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, with Angola international striker Flavio on target twice in the second half. In the other group game, Iranian giants Sepahan were held to a 0-0 draw in front of their home fans by United Arab Emirates representatives Al Ain.