Foolad 0-0 Al-Sadd
The reigning Iranian champions looked to send a message to 2011 ACL champions Al Sadd at Ghadir Stadium. A positive start including chances by Mohsen Mosalman and Aloys Nong hinted at a goal for the hosts, but the first half ended deadlocked.
Al Sadd started to find their rhythm after the halftime break, and their chances improved after Foolad’s Mehdi Badrloo was shown a second yellow card after his aggressive challenge on Khalfan Ibrahim. Coach Dragan Skocic sent on former Guangzhou Evergrande striker Muriqui to take advantage of the power play, but Foolad held strong for the scoreless draw.
Al-Hilal 3-1 Lokomotiv Tashkent
(Khariri 11′, Al Salem 14′, Neves 71′ / Mirzayev 39′)
Saudi representatives Al-Hilal needed little time to find their second gear, with captain Saud Kariri finding the net after 11 minutes and teammate Yousef Al Salem following him in just three minutes later.
Lokomotiv’s Sardor Mirzayev responded from distance just six minutes before half time, but the 2014 ACL runners-up restored their two-goal lead in the 71st minute through Thiago Neves’ shot, giving the Riyadh outfit the early advantage in Group C.
Nasaf 2-1 Tractor Sazi
(Shomurodov 46′, Karimov 52′ / Edinho 32′)
Iranian Hazfi Cup winners Tractor Sazi looked to be on their way toward earning a crucial three points on the road after Brazilian attacker Edinho deftly headed Ahmad Amirkamdar’s long cross over the reach of Nasaf goalkeeper Eldorbek Suyunov.
But the Uzbeks stood strong in freezing conditions at Karshi Central Stadium, regrouping at halftime and immediately drawing even through Ilkhom Shomurodov’s volley from near the edge of the penalty area. Nasaf at last earned their first ACL win when Artur Gevorkyan’s free kick was headed in by Khamza Karimov.
Al-Ahli (UAE) 3-3 Al-Ahli (KSA)
(Al Hamadi 19′ 79′, Khalil 43′ / Osvaldo 1′, Al Mogahwi 41′, Al Jassim 58′)
In the eagerly awaited “Al-Ahli Derby,” it was the UAE side that made the worst-possible start after an inexplicable error from goalkeeper Majed Naser gifted Osvaldo the opening goal within the first 20 seconds. Naser fresh-aired his attempted clearance from a back pass that allowed Osvaldo to tap in from all of 20 centimetres out.
The Emirati side managed to draw level 20 minutes later when Ahmed Khalil found national team mate Ismaeel Al Hamadi on the edge of the box, the midfielder turning the defender cleverly to find room in the box to smash home the equaliser. The Saudi’s returned their lead five minutes before half time after Hussain Al Mogahwi was left unmarked in the box, heading back across goal to give Naser no chance. The lead lasted only two minutes before Ahmed Khalil smashed home the equaliser to send the teams to the break locked at 2-2.
A bad night for Naser was made worse when a mazy run from Taisir Al Jassim saw him beaten at the near post from an acute angle as the Saudi national team midfielder once again restored the lead for the Saudi side. There was one final twist when Khalil’s shot was deflected perfectly into the path of Al Hamadi, whose shot beat Abdullah Al Maiouf in goal but should have been cleared off the line by Mohamed Abdul Shafy, but the Egyptian inexplicably managed to turn the ball into his own net to lock the teams up at 3-3.
Brisbane Roar 0-1 Beijing Guoan
A ten-man Beijing Guoan took all three points with a late goal against criminally profligate Brisbane Roar in the A-League champions’ home-away-from-home in the Gold Coast.
The Roar controlled most of the match, creating a flurry of chances after Beijing’s Erton Fejzullahu was sent off with a straight red in the 29th minute after the referee deemed he had stamped on Adam Sarota.
But after 90 minutes of scoreless play, a Jiayi free kick in the second minute of additional time found its way past Michael Theo after a deflection off the Brisbane defence left the veteran A-League goalkeeper wrong-footed, giving Beijing Guoan an unlikely win.
Suwon Bluewings 2-1 Urawa Red Diamonds
(Makino 57′ OG, Leo 87′ / Moriwaki 45+1′)
A first-half stunner by Ryota Moriwaki wasn’t enough for the visitors to take points away from the Koreans as Suwon fought back to score two in the second half and top Group G for the first match day.
Suwon controlled the majority of the first half, but a late flurry of attacking by Urawa had the home side struggling to clear their lines. A long pass to the opposite side of the penalty area found Moriwaki in an advanced position, with enough time to shift the ball onto his left foot before curling it inside the far post.
Trailing at halftime, Suwon continued pushing Urawa back with long balls and direct attacks, giving the J-League runners-up a hard time in possession. The hosts found luck in their equaliser, when an attempted cross from the right by Oh Beom-seok ended up in the back of the net, evading goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa. The new-found breath of life saw Suwon attacking more, while Urawa failed to capitalise on the few – yet better – opportunities provided. Suwon claimed all three points with minutes left in the game, when Leo got his head to a free kick at the unmanned far post.
Kashima Antlers 1-3 Western Sydney Wanderers
(Doi 68′ / Shoji 54′ OG, Takahagi 85′, Bridge 90+3′)
Japan’s most decorated club welcomed back two native sons as recent Wanderers arrivals Yusuke Tanaka and Yojiro Takahagi played their first ACL matches as members of the A-League side. The defending Asian champions failed to create many chances in the first half and were widely outshot by an Antlers attack which included 2014 J-League Rookie of the Year Caio. But lack of finishing, an ever-present theme for Japanese clubs in the ACL, was again on display.
The action picked up after the interval, when Mark Bridge’s shot was deflected into the goal by recent Japan call-up Gen Shoji. Antlers found an equalizer through Shouma Ito’s volley off a superb Caio cross, but Wanderers found the will to win late in the game, with Takahagi cleverly maneuvering on-side to score the decided and Bridge sealing three points with his side’s third of the night.
Guangzhou Evergrande 1-0 FC Seoul
Ricardo Goulart’s 31st-minute header proved to be the difference maker in a highly-anticipated rematch between 2013 champions Evergrande and runners-up FC Seoul. The Brazilian’s score came after fellow arrival Alan’s glancing header off a Huang Bowen corner kick.
Seoul rarely pressured the Chinese giants, who will be looking forward to a rematch of the 2014 quarter finals when they travel to Western Sydney Wanderers next week.
(Recaps by Ryan Steele, Paul Williams, and Dan Orlowitz)