Record signing Jackson Martinez’s Guangzhou Evergrande career got off to a torrid start on Wednesday, when the AFC Champions League title-holders were held 0-0 by Pohang Steelers in front of an empty stadium.
The Colombian striker, signed for 42 million euros ($46 million) this month from Atletico Madrid, failed to ignite a disjointed Evergrande attack as the deep-pocketed Chinese club’s Asian title defence started slowly.
Martinez, 30, had little joy but he was denied a dramatic winner in the very last move of the game when he forced a close-range save and then a clearance off the line by Pohang defender Kim Kwang-Suk.
The home fixture was played behind closed doors as punishment for Evergrande’s transgressions surrounding last year’s Champions League final, including filming a closed training session by their opponents Al Ahli.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari angrily prowled the touchline on a night when Evergrande ceded the early Group H leadership to Urawa Red Diamonds, who beat Sydney FC 2-0.
Brazilian striker Ricardo Goulart looked odds-on to put the Chinese champions in front on 25 minutes, but he missed with his volley when it seemed easier to score.
Goulart miscued another good chance five minutes from half-time and just before the break, Martinez went down in an edge-of-the-box collision which left him limping heavily.
Goulart fired over on 65 minutes and soon afterwards, he had a close-range volley parried by ‘keeper Shin Hwa-Yong before ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho smashed the rebound way off target.
Guangzhou’s attack lacked fluency but Martinez nearly snatched victory on 93 minutes when his point-blank shot was blocked by Shin and his instinctive rebound was kept out by Kim’s desperate lunge.
Earlier, a second-half Besart Berisha penalty gave A-League champions Melbourne Victory a 2-1 win over China’s Shanghai SIPG in Australia.
Victory remain unbeaten in seven home games in the competition, thanks to Berisha’s 73rd-minute spot-kick and newcomer Jai Ingham’s opener on 31 minutes.
Before the penalty, the Chinese Super League team coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson equalised through Wu Lei in the 52nd minute and Dario Conca also rattled the woodwork.
Also in Group G, South Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings were held 0-0 by Gamba Osaka of Japan.