Szabolcs Huszti gave the Reds the lead after 22 minutes, but the Russians hit back with goals from Samuel Eto'o, Odil Akhmedov and Mbark Boussoufa to take a commanding lead into the second leg next Thursday.
Huszti on target
Anji seemed to settle into their passing rhythm from the off, but it was Hannover who had the first chances of the game, Didier Ya Konan forcing a save from home goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov and Mame Diouf firing into the side netting after a strong run. Shortly after, Anji might have scored when Eto'o failed to poke the ball past Ron-Robert Zieler, but the guests survived.
Then came Huszti's moment. Diouf did brilliantly to control Christian Schulz's long pass and set up the Hungarian, whose powerful shot was too strong for Gabulov. The home side were not behind for long, though. Newly-recruited Willian had been relatively quiet in the first half, but the Brazilian showed his quality by squaring for Eto'o to tap in a deserved leveller.
Eto'o makes up for blunder
Mirko Slomka’s players would have felt comfortable at 1-1, but they were dealt a blow just after half-time when Odil Akhmedov fired in Yuri Zhirkov's centre to put the hosts in front. The goal seemed to liven up the crowd and Anji should have opened up a two-goal lead, but Zieler did brilliantly to keep out Eto'o's tame penalty after the Cameroonian had been fouled by Schulz
It mattered little though, as a third goal duly arrived for the home side. Eto'o did well to hold up the ball and play in Boussoufa, who burst through to squeeze an effort past Zieler for 3-1. Substitute Mohammed Abdellaoue had Hannover's best chance to equalise, but could only strike the ball wide of goal. The result means that the Reds have a difficult but not insurmountable task ahead of them if they are to prolong their European campaign.
Anji: Gabulov - Yeshchenko, Joao Carlos, Ewerton, Zhirkov - Diarra, Jucilei, Akhmedov - Boussoufa, Eto'o, Willian (85' Carcela-Gonzalez)
Hannover: Zieler - Chahed, Djourou, Schulz, Pocognoli (79. Pander) - Schmiedebach, da Silva Pinto – Schlaudraff (67. Abdellaoue), Huszti - Ya Konan, Diouf (71. Sobiech)
Goals: 0-1 Huszti (22'), 1-1 Eto'o (34'), 2-1 Akhmedov (48'), 3-1 Boussoufa (64')