All to play for in Asian showpiece
Competition in this year's AFC Champions League fired into gear on the second matchday with just three of the 32 participants maintaining 100 per cent records. Two-time winners Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, reigning champions Gamba Osaka and Korean giants Suwon Bluewings each registering their second consecutive victory.
At the same time, honours were shared in no fewer than seven matches, including three goalless fixtures. As if to emphasis the even nature of this year's competition, six teams bounded back to register their first wins, including Australia's Newcastle Jets, who saw off Korean side Ulsan Hyundai to put their campaign back on track after a shaky start.
Game of the day
UMM-Salal (QAT) 1-3 Al Ittihad (KSA)
One of the tournament favourites Al Ittihad showed glimpses of their usual selves when they came from a goal down to secure an emphatic 3-1 win over hosts Umm Salal 3-1, and move three points clear of the second-placed Qatari opponents. The Saudi champions appeared the slower side to settle when Ibrahim N'Diaye's long-range effort put the home side in front on 29 minutes, however a dominant second-half display saw 2005 AFC Player of the Year Hamad Al Montashari draw the Jeddah club level in the shadows of half time before further goals from Brazilian Renato and Moroccan striker Hicham Aboucherouane. Iran's Esteghlal and Al Jazira of UAE were left languishing at the bottom of the group after they drew 1-1 in Group C's other game.
Surprise of the day
Newcastle Jets (AUS) 2-0 Ulsan Hyundai (KOR)
Despite a one-sided 2-0 loss away to Beijing Guoan in their opener, Newcastle Jets rebuilt some lost credibility with Sasho Petrovski scoring a brace to secure a 2-0 home win over Korea Republic's Ulsan Hyundai. Both goals came in a first half largely dominated by the Jets. On the quarter-hour Petrovski latched onto a ball from former Socceroo Ljubo Milicevic to break the deadlock before heading a deserved second two minutes before the break. The win moves the Jets to just a single point behind joint leaders Nagoya Grampus and Beijing Guoan, who came up with a goalless draw in the other game.
FC Seoul (KOR) 2-4 Gamba Osaka (JPN)
On the back of their opening 3-0 win over China's Shandong Luneng, a 4-2 thrashing of FC Seoul in their second game highlighted Gamba Osaka's status as favourites to not only win the group, but also the tournament. In a game which saw the Korean hosts struggling throughout, the visitors took the lead through Masato Yamazaki after 13 minutes. Jung Jo-Gook pulled the hosts level after the interval but a hat-trick in the space of 22 minutes from Gamba's Brazilian striker Leandro put the game beyond doubt, leaving Lee Sang-Hyub's last-minute goal as a mere consolation. Chinese champions Shandong Luneng produced the biggest win of the round as they crushed Indonesian club Sriwijaya 5-0 at home in the other group fixture.
Al Arabi (UAE) 2 -0 Bunyodkor (UZB)
Last year's surprise packets Bunyodkor were on the receiving end of a surprise 2-0 scoreline inflicted by United Arab Emirates champions Al Arabi, who collected their first points after having lost to Iran's Sepahan in the opener. The UAE hosts couldn't have wished for a better start when Essa Obaid put them into lead after only three minutes, before Zimbabwean striker Musawekosi Mguni scored the sealer before the break. The result, coupled with Ettifaq's 2-1 home win over Sepahan in the other game, saw Group D's four combatants locked on three points.
Despite only managing a 1-1 home draw against Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Group A's Pakhtakor still kept their pole position intact, as Iranian Saba Battery picked up their second draw against Al Ahli in the other game. Group B favourites Al Shabab and Persepolis remained joint leaders despite playing out a scoreless draw even though Qatari's Al Gharafa stunned Sharjah of UAE for their first win.
In East Asia, Suwon Bluewings kept their perfect record intact with a 2-0 win over Armed Forces of Singapore while Kashima Antlers secured their first points in defeating Shanghai Shenhua 2-0. An away 1-1 result against Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers was enough to ensure Kawasaki Frontale maintained top position in Group H, while in the other match, a second-half strike from Wu Weian allowed China's Tianjin Teda to come from behind against Australia's Central Coast and register their first point in a 2-2 draw.
What they said
"All the remaining matches this year in the AFC Champions League are like finals. I think my players should realize this and hopefully, they won't be complacent in future matches," Al Ittihad coach Gabriel Calderon.
2009 AFC Champions League Matchday 2 fixtures:
Group A: Pakhtakor (UZB) 1-1 Al Hilal (KSA); Saba Battery (IRN) 0-0 Al Ahli (UAE)
Group B: Al Shabab (KSA) 0-0 Persepolis (IRN); Sharjah (UAE) 0-2 Al Gharafa (QAT)
Group C: Esteghlal (IRN) 1-1 Al Jazira (UAE); UMM-Salal (QAT) 1-3 Al Ittihad (KSA)
Group D: Al Arabi (UAE) 2 -0 Bunyodkor (UZB); Ettifaq (KSA) 2 -1 Sepahan (IRN)
Group E: Newcastle Jets (AUS) 2-0 Ulsan Hyundai (KOR); Nagoya Grampus (JPN) 0-0 Beijing Guoan (CHN)
Group F: FC Seoul (KOR) 2-4 Gamba Osaka (JPN); Shandong Luneng (CHN) 5-0 Sriwijaya (IDN)
Group G: Kashima Antlers (JPN) 2-0 Shanghai Shenhua (CHN); Armed Forces (SIN) 0-2 Suwon Bluewings (KOR)
Group H: Tianjin Teda (CHN) 2-2 Central Coast (AUS); Pohang Steelers (KOR) 1-1 Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)