SEOUL (AFP) – Veteran goal machine Lee Dong-gook rolled back the years yesterday as two-time AFC Champions League title winners Jeonbuk Motors got their 2019 campaign off to a winning start with a 3-1 home victory over Beijing Guoan.
In the other Group G clash another two-time Asian champions, Urawa Red Diamonds, also began with a comfortable win, 3-0 at home to Thailand’s Buriram United, courtesy of second-half goals from Tomoaki Makino and a double from Daiki Hashioka.
In South Korea the 39-year-old Lee scored his side’s second goal and set up the third in a vintage display at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
The 2006 and 2016 Asian champions went ahead in the 14th minute when Han Kyo-won took advantage of some sloppy defending by Beijing’s new signing from Jeonbuk, Kim Min-jae, to open the scoring.
Kim, who turned down a winter transfer window move to English Premier League team Watford, was guilty of ball-watching as Han turned in front of him and fired past keeper Zou Dehai.
Beijing equalised four minutes before half-time via Zhang Xizhe’s smart finish from 12 yards.
But Jeonbuk went back in front three minutes after half-time when more shoddy defending enabled Lee to pounce and extend his record as the all-time AFC Champions League goalscorer to 37 goals.
The ageless Lee with a little more luck could have bagged a quick-fire hat-trick.
First Lee’s bullet header just before the hour was clawed out by Zou and three minutes later his curling left-foot shot cannoned off the crossbar.
Lee instead turned provider in the 71st minute, his pinpoint cross enabling Kim Shin-wook to head home powerfully to seal the victory.
In the opening match of Group H, Sydney FC and 2012 champions Ulsan played out a windswept goalless draw at Kogarah Oval.
Sydney’s dangerous former Bolton Wanderers frontman Adam Le Fondre enjoyed the best of the chances, hooking one over the bar, glancing a header wide and seeing an audacious chip sail just past the post.