Brazil star Hulk converted a late second-half penalty as Shanghai SIPG defeated two-time champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 in their Asian Champions League clash on Sunday.
It was the Chinese side's second straight win in the competition having scored an identical victory over Sydney FC in Group H, while Jeonbuk suffered their second loss in three matches and are faced with an uphill battle for survival.
In an earlier match on Sunday, Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande and South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings had scrapped their way to a goalless draw in Group G, the first stalemate witnessed in the bio-secure bubble in Doha in four days of action.
The result left Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro fuming, who took his players to task, saying "this is not our style" of play.
Meanwhile Hulk, who recently completed 100 appearances for Shanghai SIPG since he joined them in 2016, was a constant source of threat for the Jeonbuk defence at the Khalifa International Stadium, rebuilt for the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
The long-haired forward stepped up to blast the ball into the net after fellow Brazilian Oscar, who had a clear path to the goal, was brought down as a last resort in the 82nd minute.
The fast-paced match saw both sides creating chances but it was SIPG who struck first to take the lead after 11 minutes.
Goalkeeper Chen Wei's long clearance found Lyu Wenjun and the forward stayed cool to control the ball and drill it home with a crisp low finish.
Shanghai SIPG's lead didn't last long as Brazilian Gustavo struck on his competition debut in the 24th minute following an excellent move down the right flank followed by a defence-splitting cross from Kim Bo-Kyung.
Both sides had opportunities after that before Hulk's strike sealed the contest in the Chinese side's favour.
Guangzhou meanwhile, had been brimming with confidence ahead of their first match in the competition despite being dethroned as Chinese Super League champions by first-time winners Jiangsu Suning earlier this month.
- Cannavaro 'not happy' -
At his pre-match press conference in Doha on Saturday, Cannavaro had talked about how Guangzhou's standing as two-time continental winners in the past 10 years made them "one of the best teams in Asia".
But after their opening draw in Group E, Cannavaro seemed highly perturbed.
"Of course I am not happy, not about the result, but about the performance because this is not our style," fumed Cannavaro, who was FIFA World Player of the Year as well as the Ballon d'Or winner in 2006.
"We didn't control the ball, we didn't create chances and we didn't try to score.
"You play against strong teams and if you don't give 110 percent in every game, you cannot win."
South Korea's Suwon, who had lost their opening game to Japan's Vissel Kobe nine months ago, were quick to adapt to the conditions.
With the match 15 minutes old, Suwon, back-to-back champions in 2001 and 2002 when the tournament was known as the Asian Club Championship, had their first chance at goal but Kim Tae-Hwan's low shot narrowly missed the mark.
Guangzhou made their first real foray at the 30-minute mark when the Brazil-born Ricardo Goulart, now known as Gao Late after becoming a naturalised Chinese citizen, unleashed a half-volley from a long pass, but was foiled by the defence.
Suwon had a great chance immediately after the break with a well-coordinated move but Guangzhou goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo was fully alert to the situation and thwarted Park Sang-Hyeok's effort from the left of the box.
Late in the match, substitute Luo Guofu almost broke the deadlock but much to his agony his brilliant curling shot from more than 25 yards just missed the mark.
Suwon coach Park Kun-Ha seemed pleased with the result.
"I think we did well today although it was a shame we couldn't score a goal," he said.