HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — South Korean side Pohang Steelers beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 to send the J-League champions to their third straight loss in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday, while Saudi club Al Alhi took control of Group C with a 4-2 victory over Iranian league champion Sepahan.
Bae Chun-suk scored from close range in the 18th minute as Steelers secured their first win of the campaign after draws against Bunyodkor and Beijing Guon.
Sanfrecce are at the bottom of Group G halfway through the group stage and are in danger of first-round elimination.
Hiroshima and Pohang had met twice before in the ACL three years ago, with each team winning at home in the group phase.
Hiroshima was not helped by the early departure of midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama, who had to be taken off on a stretcher in the 13th minute with a left-knee injury.
In the group’s other game, Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor and China’s Beijing Guoan played to a goalless draw. Bunyodkor, Steelers and Beijing are all tied for the group lead.
In Group E, FC Seoul stayed undefeated with a 2-1 win over Japan’s visiting Vegalta Sendai.
Frist-half goals from Sergio Escudero and Kim Jin-kyu put the hosts ahead before Wilson pulled one back three minutes from time for Sendai.
In Group E’s other game, Lu Bofei and Sun Ke scored late in the first half to lead China’s Jiangsu Sainty to a 2-0 win over Thailand’s Buriram United.
Jiangsu, making its first appearance in the continental competition, moved into second place in the group with four points, three behind leaders FC Seoul.
In Group C, Sepahan was looking to avenge a quarterfinal loss to Al Alhi in last year’s competition. But much like 2012, it was outplayed from the start — this time courtesy of a brace from Victor Simoes.
Sepahan’s Zhevahir Sukaj gave the home side the perfect start when he opened the scoring after three minutes, but Al Ahli hit back with goals by Simoes in the 23rd and Bruno Cesar 16 minutes later to take the lead before halftime.
Amad al-Hosni extended the advantage for the visitors within a minute of the resumption, taking a long ball, beating the offside trap and firing past keeper Shohab Gordan. Simoes then netted his second of the game in the 65th before Farshid Talebi pulled one back with three minutes left.
“We had a tough match against Sepahan as we had predicted,” Al Ahli coach Aleksander Ilic said. “Our opponents played well in the first 10 minutes, but after that we became dominant throughout the match. The physical strength of the Sepahan players went down in the second half and we took a full advantage from that to gain victory.”
With their victory, the 2012 AFC Champions League runners-up remained at the top of their group with a maximum nine points, three ahead of Al Gharafa, who beat the United Arab Emirates Al Nasr 4-2 in the group’s other match.
For a second consecutive match, French striker Djirbil Cisse scored to bolster the Qatar’s club chances of advancing to the group stages.
Cisse, who came to the Qatar club in January from Queens Park Rangers, opened the scoring in the 24th minute by heading home a free kick from Nene. Seven minutes later, Nene fed Hamed Shami who got behind the defense and slid the ball past keeper Ahmad Shambih.
Nene, who came over from Paris Saint-Germain, finally got himself on the score sheet, scoring a penalty in stoppage time after he was pulled down in the area by Khalifa Mubarak.
Al Nasr got back in the match on the hour mark, scoring twice in six minutes. But with six minutes remaining Lawrence Quaye put the match out of reach when the midfielder found space on the edge of the Al Nasr area before firing a low shot into the bottom corner past Shambih.
In Group A, Wagner Ribeiro scored twice to give Qatar’s El Jaish a 3-1 victory over Al Jazira and boost its chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Seven minutes into the match, the Brazilian midfielder Ribeiro scored before Mahir Yusuf doubled his side’s lead 10 minutes later. Subair Khater scored for Al Jazira in first half stoppage time to get the United Arab Emirates club back into the match but Ribeiro scored his second 13 minutes after the restart to seal the win.
“I’m so happy for this win as the players performed well and the players followed the instructions very well and this helped us to win tonight,” Coach Rezvan Lusecsu said. “We scored from the chances that we had and this win will definitely help us in our campaign.
Al Shabab ensured it retained top spot in Group A with a 1-0 win over Iranian newcomers Tractorsazi Tabriz.
In the 29th minute, Marcel Camacho chipped a pass over the Tractorsazi defense to Nassir al-Shamrani’s who volleyed it past keeper Mehdi Sabeti.