Oliveira gives Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal winning start to Asian title defence
Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal made a winning start to the defence of their Asian Champions League crown on Friday with a 2-1 victory in Riyadh over Sharjah from the United Arab Emirates.
Michael Oliveira's 62nd minute volley earned Ramon Diaz's side the win in the Group A clash after Saleh Al Shehri had a fifth minute penalty cancelled out by Sharjah's Otabek Shukurov, who side-footed home Luanzinho's cut-back two minutes later.
Al Hilal are joined on three points by Qatar's Al Rayyan, who saw Yohan Boli score twice in their 3-2 victory over Istiklol from Tajikistan.
Shakhrom Suleymanov put the club from Dushanbe in front with a strike from distance after three minutes but Yacine Brahimi levelled the scores five minutes later when his free kick drifted past goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov.
Boli put Al Rayyan in front a minute before halftime with a scuffed close range effort, only for Muhammad Isaev to equalise midway through the second half with an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Al Rayyan sealed the win, however, when Boli pounced from three metres out after the Istiklol defence had failed to clear a corner 19 minutes from time.
In Group B, Ever Banega's double ensured Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab made a winning start to their campaign with a 3-0 victory over Mumbai City.
The former Valencia playmaker gave his team a two-goal lead with efforts either side of halftime before Turki Al Ammar added the third in the 77th minute.
Air Force Club from Iraq also emerged victorious from their Group B opener, with Ali Kazem's 82nd minute goal earning a 2-1 win over the UAE's Al Jazira.
Boualem Khoukhi scored 10 minutes into the second half to claim a point as Qatar's Al Sadd drew 1-1 with Nasaf Qarshi from Uzbekistan in Group E, while Saudi side Al Faisaly also shared a 1-1 draw with Jordan's Al Wehdat.
Matches in the western half of the Asian Champions League are being played in biosecure centralised venues in Saudi Arabia.
Only the winners of each of the five groups are certain to advance to the last 16, where they will be joined by the three runners-up with the best records.
Clubs in east Asia will begin the group phase of the competition on April 15. (Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, editing by Richard Pullin)