Blimey. Matchday three became a car crash of chaotic cacophony. In every game involving the four Chinese sides, each team found the net. In one there were nine. In another eight. This was the AFC Champions League at its most unpredictable and exhilarating. So sit back and enjoy.
Jeonbuk 6-3 Tianjin Quanjin
When Paulo Sousa looked at Jeonbuk’s result against Kitchee not even he could’ve imagined that the South Korean outfit could replicate the number of goals they scored in the match. Unfortunately for the Portuguese and Tianjin, they did just that, finding the target six times.
And in truth they needed it. After just ten minutes Zhang Cheng had opened the scoring, a crucial moment it was thought in the match, yet what followed completely overshadowed that.
Jeonbuk responded, with Kim Shin-wook equalising on 24 minutes before Han Kyo-won’s strike just before half-time took them ahead, a reflection of the mental strength embedded in the side.
Then as Tianjin attempted to regroup themselves, Jeonbuk blew them away in a blistering 12-minute second-half spell. Ricardo Lopes Pereira started the rout just 11 minutes after half-time, with Shin-wook scoring another two. Choi Bo-kyung then ticked over the scored to six.
So even when Zhao Xuri and Alexandre Pato replied late on for Tianjin it became too little too late. Out of the 16 shots on target throughout the match, incredibly, seven of them beat the goalkeeper.
Unsurprisingly, Jeonbuk have stretched their gap at the top to five points while Tianjin remain second on alphabetical order.
Guangzhou Evergrande 5-3 Jeju United
The fact that Guangzhou are top of their group, while Jeju remain bottom simply doesn’t reflect how close this match was or the minimal level of difference in quality between them.
If the result of the match turned to the other side then the group table would also reflect that. So this was always going to be an insanely unpredictable outcome, and by half-time, the partisan crowd inside the Tianhe stadium probably didn’t know which way the tie would swing.
Jeju had recently started so well against Taiwanese side Buriram United that they had gone 2-0 up inside half an hour, game managing the situation perfectly from there to collect maximum points.
They managed the first part against Guangzhou, with Jin Sung-wook and Magno Cruz setting Jeju on their way, but this was going to be a different test. Alan Carvalho’s goal in the last seconds of the first half brought back the belief to the home crowd that they could achieve some sort of result, and they needed a mesmerising second-half display. They got it.
Ricardo Goulart has been criticised in his career since he left Santo Andre in 2011 but since arrival in China the Brazilian has delivered 59 goals, and you can add four to that list after this week’s stunning performance.
In the end, he was just too good for Jeju, and even when Lee Chang-min pulled one back everyone knew it wouldn’t be enough.
Shanghai SIPG 2-2 Ulsan
A mark of a good team is to immediately respond when the going gets tough and when adverse circumstances appear over the horizon.
This was the case here. There was no doubt that throughout the 90 minutes Shanghai were by a distance the most likely side to win the game. Yet Ulsan upset the ranks and are still placed second in the group, proving how probable it is that Shanghai will triumph in the group.
The home side managed over triple the number of shots as their away counterparts, but Ulsan were the ones to take the lead twice in the game, once in the 37th minute through Richard Windbichler and then by Kim In-sung eight minutes after the hour.
And even while Shanghai missed a catalogue of chances throughout the timing of their two goals could not have been more exquisite. Both by Oscar. One in the 38th minute and another in the 70th. Replies do not get more emphatic than that.
Suwon Bluewings 1-1 Shanghai Shenhua
The weakest of the Chinese contingent, Shenhua will be fortunate to reach the knockout stages, and out of all of the clubs are least likely to achieve success in the competition.
Their group, a bit like Guangzhou’s, is insanely close, four points separating first and third. So a draw away from home to South Korean giants Suwon Samsung Bluewings may actually be seen as a significant result regarding the bigger picture.
So it’ll be interesting to see if Giovanni Moreno’s penalty in reply to Lee Ki-je opener represents a goal that shapes the whole dynamic of the final qualification standings. The answer will likely be yes.