Group A: Persepolis 3-0 Lekhwiya
(Bengar 60′, Norouzi 66′, Noori 83′ PK)
Iran’s Persepolis celebrated their return to the AFC Champions League after a three year absence with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Qatari champions Lekhwiya.
The motivated Reds came out in full force from a goalless first half, scoring twice in six minutes. first Mohsen Bengar headed home on the hour, directing Gabriel’s free-kick into the right-hand corner. Five minutes later, Gabriel’s cross was back-heeled into the path of Norozi by Mehdi Taremi, with the flick taking both centre-backs out of the equation and giving Norouzi the simple task to side-foot past an exposed Lecomte.
Persepolis captain Mohammad Noori then added the game’s third and final goal from the penalty spot with seven minutes remaining as the Iran Persian Gulf side reaped the rewards thanks to their second-half dominance.
Group A: Al-Nassr 1-1 Bunyodkor
(Estoyanoff 51′ / Al Enazi 14′ OG)
Fabián Estoyanoff rescued a 1-1 draw for a wasteful Al-Nassr against Bunyodkor in their opener at King Fahd International Stadium. The Uzbek side celebrated a dream start when the hosts conceded an own goal through goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Enezi after 14 minutes of play. Al-Nassr added to the attack in their quest for an equaliser, however Bunyodkor successfully managed to protect their lead until the end of first-half.
The Saudi outfit began the second half much like they ended the first, and their pressure finally paid off just five minutes after the break when Adrian Mierzejewski showed great poise to cut a pass to Estoyanoff, who slammed the ball into Akbar Turaev’s goal. Al-Nassr pressed hard for a game-winner, but the visitors stood firm to claim what could prove to be a valuable draw.
Group B: Al-Ain 0-0 Al Shabaab
Al-Ain fought hard but were held to a goalless draw by Al-Shabaab in the first Group B encounter at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Zlatko Dalic’s side created many chances throughout the game but fell short of converting them in the final third. The UAE President’s Cup winners should have lead early when Ibrahim Diaky was able to pick up Lee Myung-joo’s pass but Abdurahman Al-Khaibari denied his shot.
Shortly before the break, Al-Ain had two chances through Asamoah Gyan and Miroslav Stoch’s efforts but did not find the target. In the second-half, the hosts were unable to keep their momentum until the 79th minute, with Stoch failed to break the deadlock after his shot from distance resulted in no joy. Two minutes later, under-pressured Al-Shabaab launched their only notable opportunity, but Hassan Muath’s shot was thwarted by Khalid Essa in the Al-Ain goal. The final result saw both teams leave the pitch at honours even.
Group B: Pakhtakor 2-1 Naft Tehran
(Makharadze 48′, Sergeev 85′ / Ghorbani 59′)
After a scoreless first half in cold, wet Tashkent, Pakhtakor captain Makharadze Kakhi opened the scoring when he got his head to the end of a cross before the on-running Ali Reza Beiranvand just minutes into the second half. Pakhtakor’s Sherzodbek Karimov was given his marching orders as the home side went down to ten men five minutes after the goal, getting behind his man in a late challenge to the disbelief of the home supporters.
Naft Tehran made use of the extra man advantage in the 59th minute, when Ghorbani Ali got onto the end of a long pass from their defensive half, to slot the ball past Lobanov Alexander with a clinical finish from the edge of the penalty area.
But Young Uzbek national team star Igor Sergeev put the three points back in the home side’s hands late in the game, pouncing on a loose ball in the six-yard box after Beiranvand could only parry Vladimir Kozak’s long-range free kick into his path. It was a disappointing result for Naft Tehran in their Champions League debut.
Group E: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Jeonbuk showed rust in their first competitive outing of 2015, with two headers early in proceedings ruled offside by the linesman. The Koreans controlled most of the proceedings as Kashiwa struggled to get the ball forward, though the home side failed to convert early chances. A half-volley by Lee Jae-sung just inside the first half hour crashed into the crossbar from the edge of the box, while an acrobatic save by Takanori Sugeno in the 41st minute kept Han Kyo-won’s diving header out of the net.
The profligacy continued through the second half, while Kashiwa also struggled to find clear opportunities to threaten under their new manager, Tatsuma Yoshida, forcing the points to be share between the two sides.
Group E: Binh Duong 2-3 Shandong Luneng
(Oseni 48′, W.Qiang (OG) 56′ / W.Yongpo 47′, Y.Xu 61′ 81′)
A second half brace by Yang Xu spared the blushes of Shandong Luneng who had to come from behind twice to defeat a brave Binh Duong outfit. While Binh Duong would’ve been pleased to go into half time still locked at 0-0, it took just two minutes for Shandong to open the scoring in the second half after Yang Xu, who had only come on at half time, headed the ball back across goal for Wang Yongpo to poke home. The lead lasted barely 60 seconds however after Ganiyu Oseni found space and muscled his way past the Shandong defence to smash home the equaliser. An upset looked on the cards ten minutes later when Wang Qiang headed into his own net, but two goals from Yang Xu, both headers, ensured the Chinese side would return home with all three points.