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Football: Western Sydney kick off ACL defence with ‘fantastic’ win

Western Sydney Wanderers began their AFC Champions League defence with a 3-1 victory over Kashima Antlers in Japan. Photo: WSG.

Western Sydney Wanderers (in white) began their ACL defence with a 3-1 away win over Kashima Antlers. Photo: WSG.

February 26, 2015: Defending champions Western Sydney Wanderers began their bid for back-to-back AFC Champions League titles with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Kashima Antlers in Japan on Wednesday, while 2014 finalists Al Hilal opened with a 3-1 win over Uzbek side Lokomotiv 3-1 in Riyadh.


Western Sydney took the lead when Kashima defender Gen Shoji conceded an own goal. Shoma Doi equalised for the J.League side midway through the second half, but the visitors secured victory late on with goals from former Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder Yojiro Takahagi on 86 minutes and Mark Bridge in stoppage time.


Ian Crook, Western Sydney’s assistant coach, said: “It was a very tough game and Kashima are an exceptionally good team with fabulous history, and for us to come here to start our AFC Champions League defence with a positive a result is a fantastic achievement for us.


“Our performance in the A-League at times is very good, but maybe we haven’t got the results that we think we deserve. Certainly winning games of football helps confidence, and all players and all teams need confidence to win games.”


Guangzhou Evergrande joined Western Sydney at the top of Group H after new signing Ricardo Goulart scored to give the 2013 champions a 1-0 home win over FC Seoul, their fellow finalists two years ago.


Former winners Gamba Osaka suffered a setback in Group F as debutants Guangzhou R&F of China caused the tournament’s first major upset with a 2-0 victory in Japan on Tuesday. Moroccan striker Abderrazzaq Hamedallah set Cosmin Contra’s side on their way after 10 minutes at Expo ’70 Stadium and in the 80th minute Wang Song’s deflected free-kick wrapped up the points.


“I’m very happy, not for me but for the club and the players, because they worked very hard on the pitch for these three points, and these three points are very, very good for us,” said Romanian coach Contra.


In a week in which all four Chinese Super League clubs were victorious, Thai champions Buriram United joined Guangzhou R&F at the top of Group F by defeating Korean FA Cup winners Seongnam 2-1 at Buriram Stadium on Tuesday evening.


In Group G, two-time Asian champions Suwon Bluewings edged 2007 AFC Champions League winners Urawa Reds 2-1 at Suwon World Cup Stadium on Wednesday, while midfielder Shao Jiayi scored the game’s only goal in stoppage time as Beijing Guoan beat Australian champions Brisbane Roar.


In Group E, Chinese FA Cup winners Shandong Luneng saw off Vietnamese champions Binh Duong in a rollercoaster 3-2 away victory, while 2006 champions Jeonbuk Motors of Korea and Kashiwa Reysol of Japan drew 0-0.


In the west

Al Hilal made a winning start to their campaign as Saud Kariri, Yousef Al Salem and Thiago Neves scored for the two-time Asian champions at the King Fahd International Stadium.


With Iranian champions Foolad Khouzestan drawing with 2011 champions Al Sadd in Ahwaz, Al Hilal were the early pacesetters in Group C ahead of their meeting with the Qatari side next week.


Inaugural AFC Champions League winners Al Ain were unable to break the deadlock against Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia in their Group B opener and the two sides share second spot behind early pacesetters Pakhtakor, after the Uzbekistan champions defeated tournament newcomers Naft Tehran of Iran 2-1 in Tashkent.


In Group A, Iran’s Persepolis celebrated their return to the AFC Champions League after a three-year absence with a 3-0 win over Qatar champions Lekhwiya, while Saudi Arabia champions Al Nassr drew 1-1 with Uzbek visitors Bunyodkor.


In Group D, 2011 AFC Cup winners Nasaf beat Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz 2-1, while Emirati champions Al Ahli shared a 3-3 draw at home to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.


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Source: WSG (; Editing by SportAsia

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