Tianjin, SIPG begin ACL with wins
BIG-NAME strikers such as Hulk and Alexandre Pato may have drawn a blank on the opening night of the 2018 AFC Champions League but their Chinese Super League teams kicked off with vital victories yesterday.
Tianjin Quanjian, making a first appearance in the tournament in which 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four, defeated Kitchee of China’s Hong Kong 3-0.
Former French U-21 international Anthony Modeste, signed for more than US$40 million last summer, opened the scoring in the first half as Tianjin, which finished third in the 2017 CSL, took control.
An own goal and a Sun Ke strike gave the hosts the win in Group E despite the best efforts of Kitchee’s Uruguayan forward Diego Forlan, formerly of Manchester United and Inter Milan.
SIPG, a semifinalist in 2017 after spending more than US$100 million on Brazilian stars Hulk and Oscar, won 1-0 at Kawasaki Frontale.
The team’s less-heralded Brazilian import Elkeson grabbed the only goal of the game against the Japanese champion midway through the first half. The win put SIPG top of Group F.
2016 winner Jeonbuk Motors returned to the competition in style, coming from 0-2 down in South Korea to defeat Japanese visitors Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 thanks to a second-half brace from 39 year-old Lee Dong-guk.
Jeonbuk, banned from defending its title in 2017 after a club scout was indicted for bribing referees in domestic competitions in 2013 and 2014, conceded two first-half goals before Lee, who appeared in the English Premier League for Middlesbrough in 2007, inspired a comeback in the Group E clash.
Earlier in the day, another South Korea side Ulsan Horang-I took the lead three times at Melbourne Victory but had to settle for a 3-3 draw in Group F.
The tournament is divided into two geographic zones, east and west, until November’s final.