Trophy-holders Guangzhou Evergrande seized control of their AFC Champions League group with a 3-1 win over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Tuesday, as Uruguay star Diego Forlan scored his first goal for Cerezo Osaka.
A first-half double from Guangzhou striker Gao Lin and a third from Liao Lisheng, either side of Lee Dong-Gook’s solo effort, settled a flowing game and lifted the Chinese champions three points clear in Group G.
Marcello Lippi’s men are now in familiar territory halfway through the group stage as they bid to become only the second team to successfully defend the AFC title, under their illustrious and newly re-signed manager.
Elsewhere, Uruguay international Forlan opened his account for Japan’s Cerezo Osaka in their 4-0 win over Thai champions Buriram United, and Melbourne Victory got the first win of their campaign.
In the clash between the top two teams in Group G, Gao was only handed a spot in the Guangzhou starting line-up after Muriqui, last season’s top-scorer in the competition, was injured in the pre-match warm-up.
And the China international took full advantage, opening the scoring at the Guangzhou Tianhe Stadium after 18 minutes with a close-range finish before deftly heading his side 2-0 ahead two minutes later.
Jeonbuk, who have met Guangzhou in the group stage in each of the past three seasons, pulled a goal back before half-time through skipper Lee Dong-Gook, who pounced on the rebound after his own header hit the post.
But the hosts restored their two-goal cushion just after the hour-mark when Liao Lisheng flicked home a cross by influential Italy midfielder Alessandro Diamanti to make it 3-1.
Earlier Melbourne Victory secured their first win in Group G thanks to a ninth-minute goal from New Zealand striker Kosta Barabarouses which proved enough to upset Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0.
In Group E, Forlan netted his first goal in five domestic and Asian games for new club Cerezo Osaka to round off a straightforward win for the home side against Buriram.
Yoichiro Kakitani grabbed his third goal of the tournament after only four minutes and Takumi Minamino struck twice before Forlan, ex-Manchester United and Atletico Madrid, scored in stoppage time.
Chinese side Shandong Luneng squandered an opportunity to open up a three-point lead after they allowed 10-man Pohang Steelers to battle back from two goals down for a 2-2 draw in South Korea.
The match began disastrously for the home side, who had Shin Kwang-Hoon sent off for deliberate handball and then saw Vagner Love tuck away the resulting penalty after 13 minutes.
Another handball 10 minutes later saw Shandong awarded another penalty and Love once again converted for his fourth goal of the tournament.
But Pohang fought back with captain Kim Tae-Su reducing the deficit in the 32nd minute before Kim Seung-Dae levelled the scores with 13 minutes remaining. Both sides now have five points, one more than Cerezo.