|Cerezo open their Asian Champions League account with an important win against Arema FC [AFP]
Japan’s Cerezo Osaka made a winning start to their Asian Champions League debut, pocketing all three points on offer with a 2-1 win over Indonesian champions Arema FC at home in Osaka on Wednesday in Group G.
New Brazilian signing Rodrigo Pimpao scored either side of half time to lead Cerezo Osaka to a perfect debut performance.
Elsewhere South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors beat Shandong Luneng 1-0, ten-man Sydney FC bravely held on for a draw against Suwon Bluewings and Kashima Antlers were held 0-0 by Shanghai Shenhua.
Cerezo piled on the pressure and Pimpao, who is on loan from Rio giants Vasco de Gamas, snatched the winner when he flicked on a free-kick by Masaki Chugo in the 76th minute. Benny Wahyudi scored Arema's only goal in the 50th minute.
Osaka's Brazilian coach, Levir Culpi, admitted the Indonesian champions had made life hard for his side.
"This is the first time that we've taken part in the Champions League, so I'm happy with the result," he said.
"Arema defended with 10 players and tried to counter-attack, while we couldn't connect passes. I don't know why we made so many mistakes."
Pimpao added: "We couldn't play our game in the first half. We must improve our play not to make the same mistakes."
In the other Group G match, Park Won-jae scored on the hour to help 2006 winners Jeonbuk Motors open their campaign with a 1-0 win over Chinese Super League winners Shandong Luneng.
Japanese club Kashima Antlers were held to a 0-0 draw by Shanghai Shenhua in their opening Group H game despite dominating for much of the game.
Kashima controlled play from the start, with Takuya Nozawa and Takeshi Aoki both testing goalkeeper Wang Delai inside the first 15 minutes.
The hosts created their best chance from a quick counterattack nine minutes after the interval, when Jiang Kun's deflected volley fell to Luis Salmeron, but his lofted effort couldn't get past Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata.
The Argentine striker had another shot on target, but Sogahata punched the 15-yard effort to safety.
Fellype Gabriel then almost broke the deadlock for Kashima with a bicycle kick amid a goalmouth scramble following a corner, but the Japanese club had to settle for just one point.
In the Group H opener, Sydney FC held on for a 0-0 draw against Korean FA Cup winner Suwon Bluewings after skipper Terry McFlynn was sent off in the 33rd minute.
McFlynn was red carded for stomping on the arm of Suwon striker Lee Sang-ho.
The best chance for either side fell to Suwon's Choi Sung-kuk, who blazed a shot over the cross bar after being artfully played in behind the defence in the 8th minute, while Oh Jan-Eun went close with an overhead scissors kick after half time.
Coach Yoon Sung-hyo said Suwon, the winner of the last two Asian Club Championships before the current ACL was launched, would be pleased to be leaving Australia with a draw.
"We showed less organising skills because we trained for a short time only, but I'm satisfied with getting one point,'' he said.
Sydney's Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka said he was pleased with a point, given the circumstances.
"The team showed great character and it was a very good team performance," he said.
"Terry (McFlynn) apologised to the players at half time and that helped draw the team together even further."
FC Seoul, runners-up in 2002, began their Group F campaign with a 1-0 win at Al Ain of UAE, with prolific Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic claiming the game's only goal in the 25th minute.
There was late drama, meanwhile, in Uzbek champions Bunyodkor's Group C game at Al Wahda of UAE.
The visitors looked set for victory when Uzbek international midfielder Azizbek Haydarov gave them an 85th-minute lead but substitute Hugo levelled just three minutes later to earn a 1-1 draw for Josef Hickesberger's team.
Saudi giants Al Ittihad top the group after a brace from Algerian forward Abdelmalek Ziaya fired them to a 3-1 win at home to Iranians Piroozi Athletic.