Koreans set the early standard

Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers trounced Japan's Gamba Osaka 3-0 away from home on Tuesday as the AFC Champions League kicked off with the trophy up for new ownership as present holders Al Sadd of Qatar failed to qualify.

Another South Korea side, Ulsan Hyundai also had a solid result in what is the continental showpiece tournament, claiming a 2-1 victory against Beijing Guoan.

Meanwhile, Australian teams had a mixed showing, with Brisbane Roar failing to make home advantage pay, losing 2-0 to FC Tokyo, but Adelaide United pulled off a 2-1 win against Uzbek champions Bunyodkor in Tashkent.

The Steelers took the lead in the Group E clash in the 19th minute when Kim Tae-Su stooped in the six yard box to head home a cross from Shin Kwang-Hoon. And the 2009 champions went another goal up three minutes later after goalkeeper Yosuke Fujigaya's attempt to punch the ball clear ricocheted of the head of Pohang's Serbian defender Zoran Rendulic into the back of the net.

Derek Asamoah chipped in a third goal in the 76th minute to inflict Gamba's heaviest Champions League home defeat. "We played a wonderful game against a wonderful side," said Pohang head coach Hwang Sun-Hong. "Our players did according to what we had planned for today. But we still had to move to achieve our objective."

Gamba's new coach, Brazilian Jose Carlos Serrao, apologised to fans for the loss which leaves the 2008 champions playing catch-up. "If we had won this opening game today, we could have made a good start and would have taken the upper hand to get through the group stage," he said. "This is a big loss for us and this means that we have to win away to qualify for the next stage."

In Group F, Japan's FC Tokyo opened their maiden ACL campaign by upsetting Australian A-League champions Brisbane Roar. The home side dominated possession but were undone by the faster and more clinical FC Tokyo who scored through Yazawa Tatsuya in first-half injury time and Hasegawa Ariajasuru 10 minutes after half-time.

"I am very proud of my guys because they demonstrated the Japanese potential. We played very smart and we were always one step ahead," said Tokyo's Serbian coach Ranko Popovic.

Australia's Adelaide United beat Uzbek champions Bunyodkor 2-1 in Tashkent with Nigel Boogaard heading home from a corner in the first half and Antony Golec scoring from a counter-attack in the second. Kamoliddin Murzoev pulled one back in stoppage time for Bunyodkor but by then the Group E contest was already beyond reach.

And in the other Group F match, two first half goals for Ulsan Hyundai - including a 25-yard strike from midfielder Ko Seul-Ki - were enough for victory over Beijing Guoan. "It was our first home match this year and the players produced their best performance," said Ulsan coach Kim Ho-Gon, who saw his side beat the Steelers 1-0 in their K-League opener on Saturday.

Saudis flying high
Later on Tuesday Saudi Arabia's two-time champions Al Ittihad got their campaign off to an electrifying start in Group B with a 4-0 whipping of Uzbek giants Pakhtakor.

A double by the impressive Abdullah Abusabaan was the chief inspiration for the Saudi side though their cause was helped by the red card for Aleksandr Kletskov in the 37th minute, just six minutes after he had picked up a yellow card.

It wasn't a terrific opening for the Qatari sides as two of them Al Rayyan and Al Arabi lost - the former to a 1-0 defeat at home to Iranian side Esteghlal thanks to a goal by Goran Jerkovic in time added on.

Al Arabi went down 2-0 away at Emirates outfit Bani Yas in the other Group B match. The third Qatari side Lekhwiya begin their campaign on Wednesday at home to Saudi side Al Ahli.

The AFC Champions League has eight groups of four teams with the top two in each qualifying for the knock-out stage, which starts in May.