HONG KONG (Reuters) - Andres Iniesta was in dazzling form on Wednesday as the former Barcelona midfielder drove Vissel Kobe to a 5-1 thrashing of Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim in the Japanese club’s first-ever appearance in the Asian Champions League.
Keijiro Ogawa scored a hat-trick with Kyogo Furuhashi and Brazilian striker Douglas also on target, but it was the Spanish World Cup winner who stole the show in the Group G clash with a vintage performance at the heart of Thorsten Fink’s side.
Iniesta rolled back the years with a midfield masterclass, setting up Ogawa’s first with a perfectly weighted pass from inside his own half that allowed his team mate to lift the ball over goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.
JDT levelled through Safawi Rasid’s penalty in the 27th minute after Thomas Vermaelen handled, but Vissel were back in front a minute later when Furuhashi stroked his effort home from outside the area.
Iniesta pulled the strings for Vissel’s third in the 58th minute as Ogawa scored again while Douglas outmuscled the defence four minutes later to claim the fourth.
The Spaniard was at his most audacious in setting up Ogawa’s third, lifting the ball invitingly towards the far post for the forward to head into an empty goal.
It was a good night for Japanese clubs as J-League champions Yokohama F Marinos began their campaign with a 2-1 win over two-time champions Jeonbuk Motors in South Korea in Group H.
Keita Endo put Marinos in front before an own goal from Kim Jin-su doubled Yokohama’s advantage and Jeonbuk’s hopes were hit when Son Jun-ho was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Despite being down to 10 men, Cho Kyu-seong’s 80th minute goal gave Jeonbuk hope but Lee Yong’s expulsion two minutes later killed off Jose Morais’ side.
In the western half of the draw, Iniesta’s former team mate Xavi Hernandez endured frustration on the bench of Qatar’s Al Sadd as his side were held to a 2-2 draw by Saudi Arabia champions Al Nassr in Group D.
Xavi’s team trail Sepahan following the first round of matches after the Iranian side handed Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates a 4-0 thrashing.
Mario Mandzukic scored his first goal in the competition to help Al Duhail from Qatar to a 2-0 win over Iran’s Persepolis in Group C, where Saudi Arabian side Al Taawon secured a 1-0 victory over Sharjah from the UAE.
Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by