Trio stay perfect as surprises abound
Surprises marked matchday 2 as the AFC Champions League resumed on Tuesday and Wednesday. In west Asia, Al Gharafa stunned Sepahan 3-1, while elsewhere K League champions FC Seoul had to settle for a goalless draw at Buriram United despite their dominance.
And there was also drama aplenty, with stoppage-time equalisers earning Bunyodkor and Tractor Sazi precious draws. Meanwhile, only three teams managed to stay perfect, with Pakhtakor, Al Ahli and Kashiwa Reysol all strengthening their respective leads with a second win. Join FIFA.com as we detail these match-ups across the continent.
Beijing Guoan 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Entering the encounter on the back of a proud home record against Japanese sides with four wins and two draws, Beijing Guoan of Group G maintained their unbeaten run by edging J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Both sides showed their attacking intent but it was the hosts that opened the scoring on 20 minutes through Lang Zheng.
The visitors bore down hard on the rivals as they sought an equaliser. However, missing top-scorer Hisato Sato they fashioned few clear chances. At the other end, Beijing could have doubled their lead on more than one occasion had if not been for Shusaku Nishikawa's fine saves.
The Japanese upped the tempo after the restart, with Naoki Ishihara drawing his side level with 15 minutes remaining. But Piao Cheng sealed three points for Beijing only four minutes later, picking up the ball on the edge of the area to fire home. The victory moved Beijing to the section’s top alongside Bunyodkor, who drew 2-2 with Pohang Steelers courtesy of Kamoliddin Murzoev's late equaliser.
Al Gharafa 3-1 Sepahan
Despite losing the opener 2-0 to Al Ahli, Group C's Al Gharafa bounced back by overcoming in-form Sepahan. And the home side were indebted to former France international striker Djibril Cisse, who netted a brace as his new side recorded a spirited home win.
Mohammad Ali Ahmadi put Sepahan ahead inside 13 minutes but Cisse drew Al Gharafa level three minutes later. Cisse, who most recently featured for Queen’s Park Rangers, went on to give the hosts the lead on the hour-mark with a header, before Majdi Siddiq iced the cake with a stoppage-time strike.
The result leaves the two sides level on three points behind leaders Al Ahli, who recorded a 2-1 comeback victory against a ten-man Al Nasr with Amad Al Hosni twice on target.
The other attractions
In Group A, Saudi champions Al Shabab and Iranian debutants Tractor Sazi maintained their unbeaten run as each earned a hard-fought away draw. But the latter maintained the lead on goal difference after drawing with El Jaish 3-3, courtesy of Khamis Esmaeel's stoppage-time equaliser. Al Shabab, meanwhile, drew 1-1 against hosts Al Jazira.
Uzbek giants Pakhtakor of Group B continued their good run in their eleventh Asian campaign, defeating hosts Al Shabab Al Arabi 1-0 with Jamshid Iskanderov netting the only goal five minutes from time. Hot on the Uzbeks' heels are Al Ettifaq, who were held to a goalless draw by Lekhwiya at home.
Two second-half goals from Jlloyd Samuel and Farhad Majidi gave Group D's Esteghlal a 2-0 home win against Al Ain, a result which moved the Iranian cup holders to the section’s top. In the other group encounter, Yasser Al Qahtani was twice on target as Al Hilal opened their account with a 3-1 home win against Al Rayyan.
Both of Group E’s ended 0-0 but FC Seoul maintained their place at the summit courtesy of their opening 5-1 defeat of Jiangsu Sainty. Sharing second place with Buriram are Vegalta Sendai, who were lucky to escape from Jiangsu with a share of the spoils.
Muriqui struck on 64 minutes to cancel out Kim Jungwoo's first-half opener as Guangzhou Evergrande of Group F drew 1-1 with hosts Jeonbuk Motors. The result, coupled with Urawa Red Diamonds' 4-1 home triumph over Muang Thong United, saw the Chinese champions remain at the top of the section.
Kashiwa Reysol kept their 100 per cent record by seeing off Central Coast Mariners 3-1 to establish a four-point lead ahead of second-placed Suwon Bluewings in Group H. Leandro Domingues completed a brace and Kenta Kano was also on target as the Japanese hosts battled from behind to win. In the other match, Chinese novices Guizhou Renhe obtained their first point with a goalless draw at Suwon.
Leandro Dominguez was the difference as Kashiwa Reysol saw off Central Coast Mariners with a 3-1 comeback win. Dominguez, one of the heroes of Kashiwa’s surprise J.League title win in 2011, scored twice and provided an assist to help his side claim three crucial points at the expense of Australia’s only representative.
8 - Half of the matchday's sixteen match-ups ended in stalemates, including four goalless draws.
What they said
"We deserved at least a draw because we played well and the players played with fighting spirit despite being reduced to ten men. I hope we will be lucky in the upcoming matches," Al Nasr coach Walter Zenga
2013 AFC Champions League matchday 2 results
12 & 13 March
Group A: El Jaish 3-3 Tractor Sazi, Al Jazira 1-1 Al Shabab
Group B: Al Shabab Al Arabi 0-1 Pakhtakor, Al Ettifaq 0-0 Lekhwiya
Group C: Al Gharafa 3-1 Sepahan, Al Nasr 1-2 Al Ahli
Group D: Esteghlal 2-0 Al Ain, Al Hilal 3-1 Al Rayyan
Group E: Jiangsu Sainty 0-0 Vegalta Sendai, Buriram United 0-0 FC Seoul
Group F: Jeonbuk Motors 1-1 Guangzhou Evergrande, Urawa Red Diamonds 4-1 Muang Thong United
Group G: Beijing Guoan 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Bunyodkor 2-2 Pohang Steelers
Group H: Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 Central Coast Mariners, Suwon Bluewings 0-0 Guizhou Renhe