Guangzhou Evergrande came out on top in a battle of the past and present Asian champions as the 2013 AFC Champions League winners defeated current title holders Western Sydney Wanderers in a 3-2 victory in Australia, thanks in large part to Brazil international Ricardo Goulart’s hat-trick, that capped an enthralling series of encounters on Matchday Two of the continental championship this week.
Goulart netted three times, while Western Sydney answered with goals from Iacopo La Rocca and Romeo Castelen in a match that featured 17 minutes of additional time following an injury to Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.
Despite the loss of their custodian with a suspected broken jaw after his collision with teammate Kim Young-gwon, Guangzhou hung on to claim their second consecutive victory which was enough to move Fabio Cannavaro’s side up into top spot in Group H.
“Today has been a very difficult match but I’m happy with my team because we played good football and I really appreciate the character they showed,” said FIFA World Cup winner Cannavaro.
“Of course we have to improve, we have to know when to attack, when to defend, how to control the match and everything so we need to improve.”
Last year’s semi-finalists FC Seoul were also victors on Wednesday in Group H as the Korean side secured a 1-0 victory over Japan’s Kashima Antlers thanks to Kim Jin-kyu’s second-half goal at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Also in the East, Gilberto Macena’s acrobatic last minute winner gave Thai champions Buriram United a stunning come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F in their Group F match on Tuesday at Yuexiu Stadium.
“Though we won two games and are leading in the group, we have a long way to go. I only care about the next opponent. We have more games to go and my players have to keep the same attitude all the time. It is too early to talk about qualification,” said Buriram coach Alexandre Gama.
“This game was crucial for the group rankings and it could be decisive for qualification. We came to show who we are and what our football style is and we achieved it.”
Two-time continental champions Seongnam FC, meanwhile, claimed their first win of the 2015 AFC Champions League as Ricardo Bueno’s early spot kick and Hwang Ui-jo’s second half strike earned a 2-0 win for the Koreans over Japanese treble winners Gamba Osaka on Tuesday in Group F’s other fixture.
In the West, a first-half Mohammad Noori penalty was enough to give Iran’s Persepolis a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Bunyodkor in Tashkent on Tuesday and maintain their 100 percent record at the top of Group A.
The visitors took the lead midway through the first half when captain Noori converted from the spot after striker Mehdi Taremi was fouled to claim his second in two games after his side’s impressive 3-0 win against Qatari champions Lekhwiya last week.
While in the day’s later game in Doha in Group A, an own goal by Muhamed Musa and a strike by Vladimir Weiss saw Saudi champions Al Nassr and Lekhwiya share the spoils in a lively encounter at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium.
Also in the West, last year’s leading scorer Asamoah Gyan got off the mark in the 2015 edition of the AFC Champions League but inaugural winners Al Ain were again unable to pick up three points as they drew their second consecutive game with a 1-1 tie against Naft Tehran on Tuesday in Group B.
The result sees the Emirati club remain two points behind Uzbek champions Pakhtakor after Samvel Babayan’s side shared a 2-2 draw with Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia.
Elsewhere, after their goalless draw with Kashiwa Reysol on Matchday One, 2006 winners Jeonbuk Motors maintained an unbeaten record in the AFC Champions League this season as second half goals from Han Kyo-won, Lee Jae-sung and Leonardo secured an eye-catching 4-1 away win over China’s Shandong Luneng on Tuesday.
And in Group E’s later game, Kashiwa kept pace with Jeonbuk with a 5-1 thrashing of Vietnamese club Binh Duong that sees the 2013 semi-finalists share top spot in the group with the K-League club.
Chinese Super League runners-up Beijing Guoan, meanwhile, picked up their second straight win with a 1-0 defeat of Korean club Suwon Bluewings on Wednesday which leaves Gregorio Manzano’s side at the top of the early Group G standings with Brisbane Roar joining Suwon in second place after they posted an important 1-0 away win over Japan’s Urawa Reds thanks to Brandon Borrello’s early opener.
In Group D, Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz posted their first win of the campaign after edging Emirati club Al Ahli in a 1-0 win in Ahwaz, while Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli recorded a 2-1 victory over Uzbek side Nasaf to go into Matchday Three as group leaders.
Finally in Group C, having faced Saudi side Al Hilal four times in last year’s competition without winning, Al Sadd beat the two-time Asian champions at the first time of asking in the 2015 edition coming out on top 1-0 in Doha on Wednesday, while in the day’s earlier game Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv claimed their first-ever point in the AFC Champions League after sharing a 1-1 draw with Iran champions Foolad Khouzestan.
CAPTION – Ricardo Goulart scored a hat-trick to lead Guangzhou Evergrande past current AFC Champions League champions Western Sydney Wanderers in a 3-2 victory in Australia on Wednesday.