Champs Pohang stumble in Adelaide
Defending champions Pohang Steelers stumbled to an opening 1-0 defeat in defence of their AFC Champions League title on Wednesday on a disappointing night for teams from Korea Republic.
The Steelers went down to Adelaide United in Australia after exciting youngster Matthew Leckie scored an individual goal in first-half injury time. Leckie ran from deep inside his own half and held off four defenders in a mazy run before scoring with help from defender Park Hee-Chul for the eventual winner.
Adelaide, who lost to Japan's Gamba Osaka in the 2008 final, finished at the bottom of this season's A-League but they showed plenty of spirit against Pohang in a niggly Group H match of 38 fouls.
Asia's top club competition got underway with eight games on Tuesday, a night that saw former Pohang striker Denilson among the goals for Uzbek giants Bunyodkor in their 3-0 demolition of Saudi powerhouse Al Ittihad. Their target is the final in November, with the winner assured of a place in the FIFA Club World Cup.
In other matches on Wednesday, Japan's Gamba Osaka ground out a well-deserved 0-0 draw in Korea against Suwon Bluewings in their opening Group G match. Despite holding the K-League side on their own ground, Gamba will feel that they did enough to take all three points as it was the Japanese team who created the better openings.
In Hiroshima, Sanfrecce's AFC Champions League debut ended in disappointment with a second-half strike by Han Peng enough for China's Shandong Luneng to seal a 1-0 victory. The Chinese international headed home a corner 13 minutes from time to help new boss Branko Ivankovic's side get off to a winning start.
Chinese Super League underdogs Henan Jianye, meanwhile, drew 0-0 at home against Singapore Armed Forces on their competition debut in a tough group that will also see them face Suwon and Gamba. In the other matches being played on Wednesday, Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor secured a 1-0 away victory over United Arab Emirates side Al Ain. The Uzbek side opened their Group C account with three points thanks to a 59-minute strike from Artur Gevorkyan.
Meanwhile, Iranian powerhouse Sepahan drew 1-1 with Al Shabab in Saudi Arabia. Midfielder Hosseini Seyed Jalal opened the scoring for the visitors in the 14th minute but Fisal Bin Sultan denied them victory with an equaliser 20 minutes from the end.
In Group D, Saudi side Al Hilal, coached by former Marseille manager and Belgian footballing great Eric Gerets, thumped Qatar's Al Sadd 3-0 in Doha with striker Yasser Al-Qahtani grabbing the first two goals. Brazilian Thiago Neves then completed the rout in the final minute when he finished from close range past goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.
In the group's other game on Wednesday, Iran's Champions League newcomers Mes Kerman - who are battling against relegation domestically - convincingly beat Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates 4-2 with the Iranian side's midfielder Mahdi Rajabzadeh scoring two.