Ibaraki: Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim came away from their long-awaited debut in the group phase of the AFC Champions League on the wrong end of a 2-1 result against title holders Kashima Antlers on Tuesday.
But, while the Southern Tigers made a losing start to the 2019 campaign, head coach Benjamin Mora hailed his players’ performance at the home of the eight-time J.League champions after JDT frustrated Go Oiwa’s side throughout the 90 minutes of their Group E opener.
“We are happy because we made our first appearance in the ACL group stage versus the champions, the last champion that was playing versus Real Madrid, that was playing versus Chivas, and we did very well,” said the Mexican.
Group E: Kashima Antlers (JPN) 2-1 Johor Darul Ta'zim (MAS)
Ibaraki: Japan's Kashima Antlers got their AFC Champions League title defence underway with a 2-1 win over Johor Darul Ta'zim of Malaysia in Group E on Tuesday.
There was an early scare for the visitors when JDT goalkeeper Farizal Marlias brought down Takeshi Kanamori on the edge of the box. The away side were relieved that the referee blew for a free-kick and not a penalty.
Changwon: Italian striker Graziano Pelle has bemoaned Shandong Luneng’s missed chances after their entertaining 2-2 draw with Korea Republic’s Gyeongnam FC in their opening 2019 AFC Champions League Group E fixture at Changwon Football Center on Tuesday.
The former Southampton striker, making his first appearance in the competition since the 2016 quarter-finals, was the hero for his side as goals in either half earned a valuable point on the road for the Chinese Super League team.
But having taken a first-half lead, Pelle was disappointed Shandong couldn’t stay in the ascendancy and come away with all three points, especially after they spurned a number of late chances.
Preview - Group G: Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN) v Buriram United (THA)
Saitama: Urawa Red Diamonds return to the AFC Champions League for the first time since lifting the 2017 title when they host Thailand’s Buriram United in Group G at Saitama Stadium on Wednesday.
The Japanese side defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the final two years ago to add to the title they won a decade earlier, but they failed to qualify for last year's edition. However, after winning the 2018 Emperor’s Cup, Urawa will make their seventh appearance on the Continent.
Oswaldo de Oliveira’s team have had a poor start to their domestic season, losing the Super Cup to Kawasaki Frontale and then picking up one point from their opening two J.League games, with a 2-0 loss to Consadole Sapporo at the weekend their latest result.
Preview - Group G: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR) v Beijing FC (CHN)
Jeonju: Two-time AFC Champions League winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of Korea Republic will begin their 2019 Group G campaign against China’s Beijing FC at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on Wednesday.
Jeonbuk are one of the most decorated teams in Asia, having lifted the trophy in 2006 and 2016 as well as finishing runners-up in 2011, and they return to the competition after winning their fourth K League 1 title in five years.
The hosts, who were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by domestic rivals Suwon Samsung Bluewings last year, began the defence of their K league 1 title with a 1-1 draw against Daegu FC on Friday.
Preview - Group H: Shanghai SIPG FC (CHN) v Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
Shanghai: The defending champions of the Chinese Super League and the J.League will face off in Group H of the AFC Champions League on Wednesday when Shanghai SIPG host Kawasaki Frontale at Shanghai Stadium.
Shanghai finally ended Guangzhou Evergrande’s dominance in China after winning the league in 2018 and return to the competition for the fourth successive year. Their best performance was when they reached the semi-finals in 2017.
The hosts, who remain unbeaten at home in the AFC Champions League, began the defence of their domestic title with a 4-0 win over city rivals Shanghai Shenhua on Friday and also defeated Beijing FC to win the Super Cup a week earlier.
Preview - Group H: Sydney FC (AUS) v Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR)
Sydney: Australia’s Sydney FC and Ulsan Hyundai of Korea Republic will get their 2019 AFC Champions League Group H campaigns underway when they meet at Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday.
The A-League side, who are making their fifth appearance in the competition, were eliminated at the group stage in 2018 after failing to win a game or score a goal at home. Their best performance to date was when they reached the Round of 16 in 2016.
Unlike the other teams in their group, they are well into their domestic season and currently sit second in the A-League after winning their last two games, against Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United.