Persepolis opened up the this season's AFC Champions League west region matches with a victory against Al Wahda while Xavi Hernandez's Al Sadd and Pakhtakor Tashkent each began their campaign with draws.
While Al Sadd had to fight back against Iranian qualifiers Foolad Khuzestan to earn a 1-1 draw in Group D while Uzbek Super League champions Pakhtakor played out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Hafzi Cup winners Tractor FC in Group B.
Tractor trade blows with Pakhtakor in a six-goal thriller
Drama was on display in Group B as Tractor FC struck late to salvage a 3-3 draw against Pakhtakor Tashkent in what was a topsy-turvy game at the Sharjah Stadium in the United Arab Emirates. The Uzbeks had come back from two goals down to lead 3-2 with eight minutes left, but there was another twist in the tale as the Iranians equalised with five minutes left.
After a goalless first period, Team Melli veteran Ashgan Dejagah had given Tractor the lead in the 53rd minute before Mohammad Abbaszadeh doubled the lead. Dragan Ceran, Sharof Mukhitdinov and Khojimat Erkinov each struck in the final 21 minutes to put the Uzbek champions ahead.
But, Tractor had the final say in the game as Abbaszadeh's second from the spot earned them a point on their return to ACL. The real beneficiaries of that result, however, were hosts Sharjah FC as they climbed to the top of the group standings with a 1-0 win over Iraq's Air Force Club in the other match.
Sharjah have their continental hopes largely pinned on Kashima Antlers and Al Ain winger Caio Lucas Fernandes and it was the Brazilian who proved to be the difference between the two sides on the night as his cross was converted by Khaled Ba Wazir just past the hour mark to give full points to the UAE Pro League outfit.
Persepolis' hunt for the elusive trophy off to a good start
Despite finishing as the runners-up, Persepolis did not have the best of starts in the group stage last season in the ACL -- needing a win in their final group fixture to squeeze through to the knockout stages. Yahya Golmohammadi's men are not leaving their qualification to chance this time around.
In the tournament opener, the Red Army put on an impressive show to collect all three points against UAE's Al Wahda, thanks to a lone goal from 39-year-old centre-half Jalal Hosseini. The winning margin could only have been greater if the goalpost had not saved the Emiratis when Ahmad Noorollahi and Shahriyar Moghanloo went close.
Still in search of their first Champions League trophy after losing two finals over the last three seasons, the Iran Pro League leaders will now take on Qatar Stars League side Al Rayyan SC who were left frustrated by hosts FC Goa in the other match of Group E on the opening day at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Dehli.
Laurent Blanc's Al Rayyan conjured attack after attack against India's first-ever representatives in ACL group stages, but the Gaurs held on for a historic point on their continental debut proving that Juan Ferrando's men will not be mere also-rans in Group E of the AFC Champions League.
Xavi and Al Sadd have work to do after modest draw against Foolad
Xavi Hernandez and his Al Sadd side came into the opening game of this season's Champions League as one of the favourites for the Asian crown. They were reined back by little-fancied Foolad Khuzestan who held them to a 1-1 draw in their Group D clash at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
Al Sadd were on the front foot for the majority of the game but failed to capitalise on the chances they created. Xavi's side looked to be missing the services of Akram Afif who is absent due to a muscle injury. Brazilian attacker Chimba gave Foolad the lead in the 61st minute and the Qataris had to wait until the 89th minute to finally break through with a Yusuf Abdurisag strike.
The Qatar Stars League champions, who went through the domestic season unbeaten, had some reprieve as the other match in the pool between Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr FC and Jordan's debutants Al Wehdat FC ended in a goalless draw. With the Qataris set to take on the Saudi giants in the next encounter, Al Sadd will have to improve their game to fulfil their potential.
Fixtures in West Asia are taking place in centralised venues in Saudi Arabia, UAE and India due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winners of the five groups as well three best runners-up from the region will make it to the Round of 16 of this season's AFC Champions League.