K-League side Ulsan Hyundai eked out a narrow win as the AFC Champions League quarter-finals got under way.
Ulsan had Brazilian striker Rafinha's deflected shot to thank for its 1-0 first-leg victory over Al Hilal.
However, Italy's 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi's hopes of adding Asian Champions League glory to the European version he won as Juventus coach in 1996 dimmed as his expensively-assembled Guangzhou Evergrande side lost 4-2 away at Saudi Arabia outfit Al Ittihad.
Two headers from Saudi Arabia striker Naif Hazazi gave the two-time AFC Champions League winner a useful advantage to take to China in a fortnight.
"We made some errors which weren't supposed to happen and that's why we lost," said Lippi.
"But this game will be decided over 180 minutes and hopefully when we play at home all of our players will be back."
In Isfahan, Al Ahli, the third Saudi club still standing, was held to a 0-0 draw on its first appearance in the quarter-finals since 2005 by Iranian opponent Sepahan at the Foolad Shahr Stadium.
The second legs take place on 2 and 3 October.
AFC Champions League
Kashiwa Reysol sealed its progression in the AFC Champions League with a 5-2 aggregate win over Korea Republic club Jeonbuk Motors.