Adisak Kraisorn’s injury-time strike secured a 1-1 draw for Buriram United against ambitious Chinese team Shandong Luneng on the opening night of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
Shandong, under new Brazilian coach Cuca, who won last year’s Copa Libertadores with Atletico Mineiro, appeared to have the game won in Jinan when Liu Binbin scored with just seven minutes to go.
However, two minutes into stoppage-time, second-half substitute Adisak capitalized on some sloppy defending from a long-range free-kick to snatch the precious equalizer.
The result was a reminder of the fighting spirit that took the Thai treble-winners to last year’s quarter-finals.
However, it was a chastening start for Shandong, last year’s Chinese Super League runners-up, who have invested heavily in a bid to match domestic and Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
Elsewhere, Seoul shrugged off the departure of two key players from their run to last year’s final as they dominated Central Coast Mariners for a 2-0 win at home.
An Osmar Barba penalty and a Yun Il-lok strike sealed a straightforward win for Seoul, who lost midfielder Ha Dae-Sung to Group F rivals Beijing Guoan, and striker Dejan Damjanovic to Jiangsu Sainty.
Ha instantly showed his value to Beijing when he scored the first goal in their 1-1 draw away to Japan’s J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Tuesday’s other Group E game also ended 1-1 when Pohang Steelers came from behind to earn a point against Cerezo Osaka.
Meanwhile, in Group A, Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates struck two early goals on the way to a 3-1 win over Qatar’s Al Rayyan, while Iranian giants Esteghlal were beaten 1-0 by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab.
In Abu Dhabi, Al Jazira’s Ecuadorian striker Felipe Caicedo needed just three minutes to get on the scoresheet as he found the target courtesy of an assist from Abdelaziz Barrada.
French-born Morocco international Barrada then struck in the ninth minute to give Al Jazira a 2-0 cushion at halftime.
Al Rayyan reduced the margin through Argentine midfielder Lucho Gonzalez in the 59th minute before Ahmed al-Ghilani made it 3-1 for Al Jazira in the 72nd.
A second-half injury-time goal by Nigerian forward Kalu Uche saw Al Rayyan reduce the margin of their loss.
Meanwhile, Imad Khalili’s 58th-minute strike helped Al-Shabab secure three points in their away game at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.
Both the Group B matches on Tuesday ended goalless draws.
In Doha, Qatar’s El Jaish were held by Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan, while Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh drew Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor.