The AFC Champions League group stage got underway this week and Kawasaki Frontale came out flying. Playing away to Johor Darul Ta’zim, Frontale defended excellently and got a winner from Marcinho to come back from Malaysia with full points.
Playing in front of a vocal crowd at Sultan Ibrahim Stadium was always going to be difficult for Frontale, but they handled the pressure well. Their defense kept JDT at a distance and when shots did come in Jung Sung-Ryong was there to make the save.
Marcinho was a danger man from the start and nearly scored on the half-hour mark when he forced a turnover and raced in behind the defense. His shot was goal-bound until a retreating defender was able to clear it off the line.
Just before halftime, Marcinho broke through in spectacular fashion. Tatsuki Seko got on the end of a cross, heading it towards the back post where the Brazilian scored on a magnificent flying volley to give Frontale the lead.
The second half brought more chances for Frontale as Marcinho went just wide and Seko had a shot cleared off the line, but the defense made the one goal stand up anyway and Frontale took full points away from home to start their continental campaign.
Ventforet Kofu’s first foray into the Champions League started well, as they walked away with a point from Melbourne City. The J2 side didn’t have much of the ball, but they defended well and countered dangerously, outshooting the A-League premiers. That earned them a point that is a good beginning to their tournament.
Urawa Reds also got a point away in their first match of the competition, but their match was far more dramatic. Wuhan Three Towns scored early, only for Bryan Linssen to equalize. A penalty put the Chinese side back in front, but José Kanté hit an absolute rocket to the top corner of the goal in stoppage time to rescue a point for the defending Asian champions.
The final Meiji Yasuda J.League team in the competition, Yokohama F·Marinos, did not get off to the same positive start. Goals by Takuma Nishimura and Ryo Miyaichi had the Tricolor level at 2-2 and en route to a good point away to Incheon United, but the South Korean club scored twice late on to down the reigning J1 champions.
These four clubs will return to AFC Champions League play on October 3 and 4 for their second of six group stage matches.