Champs Al Ittihad make winning start
© AFP

Al Ittihad got their bid for a successful defence of the AFC Cup title off to the ideal start with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Al Saqr at Ali Mohsen Al Muraisi Stadium on Tuesday.

The Syrians opened the scoring after 52 minutes through Madiou Konate but Galal Al Qatta equalised just after the hour for the hosts. However, substitute Tamer Rashed sealed the win for Al Ittihad nine minutes from time.

The result means Al Ittihad join 2010 runners-up Al Qadsia on three points in Group B after the latter eased to a 4-0 win over ten-man Shurtan at Mohammed Al Hamad Stadium. A brace from Hamad Al Enezi and goals from Firas Al Khatib and substitute Ahmad Alzemi sealed the win for the hosts, while Shurtan's misery was compounded by the second-half dismissal of Sadriddin Abdullaev for a second bookable offence.

In Group A, Dempo made an impressive start to their continental campaign as the Indian side beat Yemen's Al Tilal 2-1 at Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium. Two goals in 16 second-half minutes sealed the win for the hosts with Beto and strike partner Ranti Martins netting, while Tafese Sege scored a consolation for Al Tilal. Dempo were edged to the top of the standings by Nasaf as the Uzbekistan side beat ten-man Al Ansar 3-0 at Karshi Central Stadium.

Arbil climbed to the top of Group E after the Iraq side beat Lebanon's Al Ahed 2-1 at Sports City Stadium with goals either side of half-time from Luay Salah and Ali Khudhair. They moved two points clear of Al Karamah and Al Arouba after the two sides played out a 2-2 draw at Khaled Ibn Al Waleed Stadium.

In East Asia, TSW Pegasus moved into first place in Group F with a 2-1 win at Song Lam Nghe An at Vinh Stadium in Vietnam. Pegasus' win came courtesy of two late goals from Itaparica and Gerard Ambassa Guy, moving the Hong Kong side ahead of Sriwijaya and VB, who drew 1-1 in the group's other game. Ashad Ali had put VB ahead but the side from the Maldives were denied all three points when defender Douglas Santos put the ball in his own net moments before full time.