Guangzhou beat Reds in Asia Champions League
Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande swept aside Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds 3-0 in an AFC Champions League opener crackling with political tensions and played under heavy security on Tuesday.
As the Asian competition got underway with goals and an outlandish "Panenka" penalty, the Chinese double-holders began their campaign in ominous style as they dispatched the 2007 winners at home.
Chinese media said 11,000 police and security were deployed to prevent any flare-up in nationalist violence. Leading website sports.163.com called it China's highest ever ratio of guards to fans, who numbered about 40,000.
But Lucas Barrios's 16th-minute opener helped calm the atmosphere and Muriqui weighed in with a second goal after half-time. At the death, Keita Suzuki put the ball into his own net to make it an emphatic start for Guangzhou.
The big-spenders, led by their World Cup-winning coach, are aiming to become China's first Asian champions in 23 years, a result which would help mend the country's image after a major corruption scandal which left top officials in jail.
Ambitious China's reputation has also suffered after high-profile imports Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka abruptly quit the country after just one season with Shanghai Shenhua.
Fellow Chinese team Jiangsu Sainty had a rude introduction to the competition when they were hammered 5-1 in their debut outing by K-League champions FC Seoul, who will have their own claims on the Asian title.
Buriram United, rocked last week by claims that their Thai FA Cup final win against Army United was targeted by match-fixers, started positively when they came back from a goal down to draw Japan's Vegalta Sendai 1-1 away.
"We may have to feel content that we haven't lost our opening match," said Sendai coach Makoto Teguramori. "We tried to gain a little flexiblity in our tactics by changing our pace from the first to the second half."
At Nonthaburi's Thunderdome Stadium, fellow Thai team Muangthong United also earned a priceless draw when they twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the 2006 winners and 2011 runners-up.
Muangthong went 1-0 down to an early Lee Dong-Gook penalty but they equalised on the stroke of half-time courtesy of Mario Djurovski's sublime "Panenka", chipped-down-the-middle spot-kick.
Belgian forward Kevin Oris looked to have stolen the points for the visitors on 77 minutes but Muangthong's South Korean import Kim Yoo-Jin had the last word when his header found the net via a Jeonbuk defender with just two minutes to go.
Two west Asian groups will also kick off on Tuesday. In Group A, Spanish coach Luis Milla will take charge of Al Jazira for the first time, just days after he replaced Brazilian Paulo Bonamigo, against Iran's Tractorsazi Tabriz.
In Group B, Qatari champions Lekhwiya will host play-off winners Al Shabab Al Arabi of the UAE, while Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor, the only side to qualify for all 11 editions, take on Saudi side Al Ettifaq. The remaining games are on Wednesday.
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