Urawa Red Diamonds had no answer for Guangzhou Evergrande's brilliant Brazilian Muriqui as the forward inspired the Chinese Super League champions to a 3-0 win over the 2007 Asian champions in their AFC Champions League opener last night.
Muriqui scored once and made a second as Guangzhou - quarterfinalists in last year's competition - scored an emphatic win over the J.League side at Tianhe Stadium in their group F encounter.
The 26-year-old set up Lucas Barrios for Guangzhou's first in the 16th minute with a mazy run that saw him evade both Urawa defender Tomoaki Makino and goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato before setting up the Paraguayan with an easy finish.
And 20 minutes into the second half, Muriqui doubled Guangzhou's advantage with a fine strike after a lay off from Gao Lin. A Keita Suzuki own goal in the dying seconds sealed the win for Guangzhou.
"I'm happy that we won and very satisfied with the performance of my team," said Guangzhou's World Cup winning Italian coach Marcello Lippi. "Our opponent's players have good skills, and are very good at controlling a match zonally. The entire match was very smooth, so I'm happy to have this result. We have prepared for it for so long.
"In my team the Chinese internationals were not with us in our training camp and two of them came back with injuries. So we were not in our best shape. However we were able to win in less-than-perfect circumstances, which is very encouraging and inspiring," he said.
Asked what he would do if Muriqui were not on the club's books, the former AC Milan and Juventus coach was dismissive.
"Muriqui is our player," he said. "I don't think there should be such theory. I only want to say that he is a vital player. Last year when we were in Saudi Arabia [for the first leg of the quarterfinal against Al Ittihad] he only played 15 minutes and had to go off due to injury."
There were to be no celebrations, however, for AFC Champions League debutants Jiangsu Sainty, who succumbed to a 5-1 loss to South Korea's FC Seoul in their first appearance in the competition in group E.
"FC Seoul are a very strong team, and even though this is our first match in the AFC Champions League, we are not satisfied with the result," said Dragan Okuka, coach of the Nanjing-based club.
"Even though FC Seoul are a good team, I did not expect a scoreline like that. In the second half we tried to improve our chances by making substitutions, but in the end we conceded a lot of goals due to mistakes.
"It was good experience for us and we'll take this as an opportunity to develop for the future."
Beijing Guoan, third place finishers in last year's Chinese Super League, will meet former champions Pohang Steelers in group G this evening while tournament debutants Guizhou Renhe host Japan's Emperor's Cup winners Kashiwa Reysol in Guiyang in group H.