YOKOHAMA – Douglas came off the bench to strike twice as Sanfrecce Hiroshima roared back to defeat Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1 in the Club World Cup third-place match on Sunday.
Douglas won it with a late header to cancel out Paulinho’s opener just minutes after kickoff as the J. League champions seized the win in a duel between two of the best sides in the continent.
Hajime Moriyasu’s men join Urawa Reds (2007) and Gamba Osaka (2008) for the highest finish at the tournament by a Japanese club.
“The most important thing is that we placed third,” Douglas said when asked about his two goals. “I prepared for the game like I always do. Scoring goals gets a team going, so after the first one, I wanted to score another one right away.
“I didn’t want the game to go into penalties because it would have given them a chance again. We should have won our last game (against River Plate in the semifinals), but we learned from that for this one.”
Hiroshima was unlucky not to be on the scoreboard at halftime after seeing the bulk of the opportunities in the first half.
Guangzhou went up quickly in the fourth minute, Paulinho redirecting an off-target effort by Gao Lin into the net for his second goal of the competition.
But apart from Paulinho’s header and a deflected shot by Zhang Linpeng that hit the post midway through the half, the chances comfortably belonged to Sanfrecce.
Mihail Mikic buzzed the bar after cutting inside from the right in the 10th minute, and Hisato Sato forced a pair of reflex saves out of Guangzhou gatekeeper Li Shuai with two glancing headers set up by Kohei Shimizu.
Takuya Marutani came even closer two minutes from intermission, with defender Mei Fang needing to make a desperate clearance off his line to keep Guangzhou in the lead.
Douglas replaced Sato in the 58th minute and the Brazilian finally restored parity for Hiroshima a dozen minutes later with his first of the evening, bundling home from a corner.
Moriyasu’s side continued to push up and seven minutes before a shootout appeared to be on the horizon, Douglas struck again.
Substitute Yoshifumi Kashiwa dribbled past his man down the right wing, picking out Takuma Asano in the heart of the area.
Asano, who was named man of the match over Douglas, headed off the bar, but Douglas was in the right place at the right time to nod in the rebound, giving Sanfrecce the Asian bragging rights.
“We came into the Club World Cup having given it everything we had in the J. League Championship final,” said Moriyasu, whose team played six games in 18 days and have an Emperor’s Cup quarterfinal to play on Saturday.
“We set out to mature as a team over the course of the season while winning at the same time, and I think we managed to achieve that.”
Guangzhou coach Luiz Felipe Scolari tipped his hat to Hiroshima.
“Hiroshima played very well, they played better than us, not only physically but technically and strategically,” said Scolari, who revealed that he has another year left on his contract plus an option beyond that.
“This is at the end of the season so we ask a certain level of quality, but in some games it is difficult to play at a physically demanding level, we can’t be fit all the time.
“Sanfrecce Hiroshima played very well today, and Gamba Osaka are a high-quality team and Kashiwa Reysol are also a high-quality team. Japanese football has made a big improvement.”