AFC Champions League review
Sensations and upsets were prominent on Matchday 2 of the 2010 AFC Champions League with just seven teams in the 32-strong field maintaining a 100 per cent record. A number of big names continued to struggle with a trio of former champions managing just a single point, Al Ittihad, Al Ain and Gamba Osaka. Only defending champions Pohang Steelers bounced back from a poor Matchday 1 to record an impressive 2-1 victory over Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Saudi sides compensated well for lacklustre opening performances a fortnight ago by recording three wins. Most notably, runaway domestic champions Al Hilal continued their imperious form with a 3-1 home win over Iran’s Mes Kerman to stay top of Group D. While a place in the knockout stage should be comfortably within their grasp, Al Hilal have showed their intention to mount a serious challenge for the continental title.
Another club who has moved quickly out of the blocks are ambitious Uzbeks Bunyodkor, who overcame Al Wahda 2-1 to lead Group B with two wins. In the Far East, Japanese champions Kashima Antlers came from one goal down to edge out hosts Jeonbuk Motors 2-1 for their second win in Group F, while Australian side Adelaide United have overcome poor domestic form to record a second win on the trot with a 2-0 triumph at Shandong Luneng.
In contrast to the underperforming Shandong, fellow C-League participants Changchun Yatai produced the biggest scoreline of the round by firing nine unanswered goals past Indonesian visitors Persipura Jayapura. Chinese champions Beijing Guoan upset Kawasaki Frontale 3-1 in snowy Japan for their second successive win.
The big game
Pohang Steelers 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Goals: Hwang Jae-Won 54, Almir 90+2; Ilian Stoyanov 89 pen
Life is rarely easy for the defending champions; a fact historically borne out in the Champions League with Al Ittihad the only team to have managed a successful defence of their title. Holders Pohang are no exception and after a surprise opening-day defeat in Adelaide, the holders narrowly avoided embarrassment with an injury-time winner against tournament debutants Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Pohang had the better of the opening half but gallant defence from the Japanese outfit in the freezing conditions ensured goalscoring opportunities were at a premium. Hwang Jae-Won broke the deadlock after heading the hosts into the lead nine minutes into the second half, but the visitors appeared to have earned a draw a minute from full time after converting a penalty following a foul by forward Almir. The Brazilian went from villain to hero within a matter of minutes by nodding home the winner deep into injury time. The hard-fought win lifting Pohang to second in Group H trailing leaders Adelaide by three points.
Kawasaki Frontale 1-3 Beijing Guoan
Goals: Kosuke Kikuchi 40; Joel Griffiths 37, Wang Changqing 65, 86
Defeating Japanese sides has proven a major challenge for Chinese teams over the past two years however Beijing showed their pedigree with a deserved 3-1 win at Kawasaki Frontale. Joel Griffiths broke the deadlock for the visitors but Kawasaki drew level within three minutes through Kosuke Kikuchi. The Chinese champions restored their lead when substitute Wang Changqing latched onto Antonio’s cut-back just past the hour mark. The midfielder then completed a brace with four minutes remaining by lobbing over goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to complete a sensational Beijing win. With two wins out of two, Beijing are now perched comfortably atop Group E alongside Korea Republic’s Seongnam Ilhwa, who lead on goal difference thanks to their 2-0 defeat of Melbourne Victory.
Despite taking the lead after two minutes, Al Gharafa needed two late goals as they rallied back to edge out the visiting Al Ahli 3-2 and maintain their perfect record in Group A. The Qatari outfit now sit two points clear of Iran’s Esteghlal who were held to a goalless draw by Al Jazira.
Fellow Iranian participants Sepahan also drew, their second consecutive deadlock, this time after sharing spoils with Al Ain in Group C. In the group’s other game, two second-half goals by Angolan forward Flavio handed Al Shabab a 3-1 win over hosts Pakhtakor with the three points enough to push past their rivals and top their section.
2008 champions Gamba Osaka remain winless after being held to 1-1 at home by impressive Chinese debutants Henan Jianye. The result benefited Group G's other big guns Suwon Bluewings, who move to the top courtesy of their 2-0 win against a ten-man Singapore Armed Forces.
Among the Brazilian forwards succeeding on the Asian scene, the prolific Denilson has been a stand out courtesy of his consistent form. After scoring seven times in steering Pohang to the Asian title last year, he has maintained that form on the other side of the continent with Bunyodkor, striking in each half this week to seal a 2-1 win over Al Wahda.
3 players scored a hat-trick on the second matchday with Gao Jian and Johnny Lambert running riot in Changchun’s 9-0 victory, while Brazilian hitman Leandro was unstoppable as Al Sadd demolished Al Ahli 5-0.
What they said
"The snowy weather caused problems for us and particularly our Brazilian forward who was largely limited. But we were fast to adapt to the conditions with our attacking line pressing hard while our defense proved solid." Beijing Guoan head coach Hong Yuanshuo
2010 AFC Champions League Matchday 2 results
Group A: Esteghlal (IRN) 0-0 Al Jazira (UAE); Al Gharafa (QAT) 3-2 Al Ahli (KSA)
Group B: Al Wahda (UAE) 1-2 Bunyodkor (UZB); Al Ittihad (KSA) 2-2 Zob Ahan (IRN)
Group C: Sepahan (IRN) 0-0 Al Ain (UAE); Pakhtakor (UZB) 1-3 Al Shabab (KSA)
Group D: Al Ahli (UAE) 0-5 Al Sadd (QAT); Al Hilal (KSA) 3-1 Mes Kerman (Iran);
Group E: Melbourne Victory (AUS) 0-2 Seongnam Ilhwa (KOR); Kawasaki Frontale (JPN) 1-3 Beijing Guoan (CHN)
Group F: Changchun Yatai (CHN) 9-0 Persipura Jayapura (IDN); Jeonbuk Motors (KOR) 1-2 Kashima Antlers (JPN)
Group G: Armed Forces (SIN) 0- 2 Suwon Bluewings (KOR); Gamba Osaka (JPN) 1-1 Henan Jianye (CHN)
Group H: Pohang Steelers (KOR) 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN); Shandong Luneng 0-2 Adelaide United (AUS)