Kelantan, Arema held in AFC Cup openers

Malaysia Super League champions Kelantan and Indonesian giants Arema were both held to draws in their opening AFC Cup Group H matches on Wednesday.

Kelantan Fans

Arema were expected to run all over Ayeyawady United at the Gajayana Stadium and that certainly looked to be the case when Roman Chmelo opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a powerful header from the edge of the area.

However, Gunawan Dwi Cahyo received a straight red just before halftime for a lunging tackle on Yves Ngangue, and Arema were made to pay for his indiscipline when Fariz Bagus Dhinata inadvertently found the back of his own net, handing Ayeyawady a share of the spoils in a match which marked Myanmar's debut in the AFC Cup.

Speaking after the game, Arema coach Dejan Antonic admitted Gunawan's dismissal had cost his side the three points.

"We did well and scored once before we were reduced to ten men," Antonic said on the AFC's official website. "After that, we had a lot of problems.

"I am very disappointed with the red card as my player made a mistake, although the decision was a little controversial in my opinion."

Despite rescuing an unlikely point, Ayeyawaday coach Jozef Herel did not cut an excited figure after the match.

"It was a good game and I am satisfied with the draw as both teams played well."

All four teams in Group H have a point apiece after Kelatan were held to a 0-0 draw by Vietnamese side Navibank Saigon at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

In Group G, second-half goals from Shotaro Ihata, Frederic Mendy and Qiu Li helped Home United to a 3-1 win over Citizen, after Yuto Nakamura had given the Hong Kong side the lead on the stroke of halftime.

The result sees the Protectors take an early lead at the top of the group after Yangon United held Thai giants Chonburi to a 1-1 draw.

There were goals aplenty in Group C as Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue scored a second-half hat-trick as Saudi Arabia's Al Ettifaq thrashed last year's AFC Cup finalists Kuwait Sports Club 5-1.

Tagliabue opened the scoring with a penalty on 51st minutes before doubling Al Ettifaq'a advantage only three minutes later.

A Yousef Al Salem goal, coupled with Tagliabue's hat-trick strike made it 4-0 after 80 minutes. Rogerinho bagged a consolation goal for Kuwait Sports Club, only for Ahmad Walibi to ram home Al Ettifaq's fifth in stoppage time.

"I am happy with the performance and result because our players were at their best and they coupled a good performance with a good result," Al Ettifaq coach Branko Ivankovic told the Asian Football Confederation's official website.

"I hope that performances like this will continue in the upcoming matches and that this win will give us motivation to carry on in the competition as we are looking forward to winning the title."

Meanwhile, Lebanon's Al Ahed went second in the group after a thrilling 5-3 win over Maldives outfit VB Addu.

Cengiz Huseyin's two-goal haul for VB Addu counted for little in the end, as efforts from Hassan Chaito, Khallil Moustapha Lambin, Hussein Dakik, Abbas Atwi and Ahmad Zreik gave the hosts an unassailable lead.

Al Ahed's Alexander Tateosian scored a late own goal to reduce the deficit.

In Group D, Uzbekistan side Neftchi overcame Jordan's Al Wehdat 2-1 to get their AFC Cup campaign off to the best possible start.

Aziz Alijonov handed Neftchi the lead with a penalty after eight minutes. Anvar Berdiev scored Neftchi's second 11 minutes from time, ensuring Mahmoud Shelbaieh's stoppage time goal was merely a consolation for the Jordanians.

The other Group D game saw India's Salgaocar lose 1-0 away to Oman's Al Arouba at the Al Seeb Sports Stadium in Muscat.

Juma Darwish's neat finish midway through the first half was enough for Al Arouba in a game they dominated throughout.

In Wednesday's only Group E match, Al Shorta edged Al Zawra'a from Iraq 3-2, where two goals in three second half minutes from Reja Rafe eventually saw the Syrians home.

A brace from Rony Azar canceled out Mohamed Boqshan's 40th-minute strike to hand Safa a 2-1 win over Al Tilal in the Group E game play on Tuesday.

Wednesday's AFC Cup Results

Group C

Al Ahed 5-3 VB Addu

Kuwait SC 1-5 Al Ettofaq

Group D

Neftchi 2-1 Al Wehdat

Al Arouba 1-0 Salgaocar

Group E

Al Shorta 3-2 Al Zawra'a

Group G

Home United 3-1 Citizen

Yangon United 1-1 Chonburi

Group H

Arema 1-1 Ayeyawady United

Kelantan 0-0 Navibank Saigon

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