KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – China’s Guangzhou Evergrande inflicted more Asian Champions League misery on Kashiwa Reysol with a resounding 3-1 win in the first leg of their quarterfinal on Tuesday night.
Daisuke Suzuki gifted Guangzhou the lead when he headed into his own net after five minutes and the Super League side, 8-1 aggregate winners over Reysol in the 2013 ACL semis, doubled their lead with a fabulous free kick from Paulinho five minutes before the break.
Striker Gao Lin headed in the third on 57 minutes and although Masato Kudo grabbed a late consolation, Reysol still have a mountain to climb for the return leg in China on Sept 15.
“It is very disappointing to lose the first leg 3-1 and concede three goals from set pieces,” said Kashiwa manager Tatsuma Yoshida.
“But it is not as though we played badly. We had time on the ball and showed quality. We are two goals behind and have conceded three away goals, but we will go for it in the second leg in September.”
Kashiwa came into the game with confidence high having won its last three J. League games without conceding once, but Yoshida’s men made the worst possible start.
Zheng Zhi was fouled on the left side of the area and Huang Bowen sent in the resultant free kick which Suzuki, deputizing as captain for injured Hidekazu Otani, headed beyond the despairing dive of Kashiwa ‘keeper Takanori Sugeno.
Kashiwa offered little by way of a response and Zheng Long had a decent chance to put Guangzhou further ahead on 19 minutes, rifling his shot just over the crossbar from the edge of the box.
But Paulinho put the visitors in control when the Brazilian midfielder uncorked a 35-meter screamer that flew past a motionless Sugeno and into the net.
“I never do free kicks because it is not my job but I just thought I would try and see what happened and then I scored, I think… No for sure, the best goal of my life” said Paulinho.
Kashiwa looked bereft of ideas going forward and it was of no real surprise when Guangzhou went 3-0 up from another set piece, Gao glancing in Huang’s cross following a short-corner routine.
Kudo gave Reysol a glimmer of hope for the second leg when he bundled in at the far post with a minute left.
“We just happened to have the right information on Kashiwa’s lineup. I have been in charge of 12 games (with Guangzhou) but this is the best team we have played against,” said Guangzhou and former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scloari.
“It was a fantastic performance. This was a game between two strong teams but we were the more decisive in front of goal.”
Domestic treble winners Gamba Osaka, the last Japanese club to win the ACL in 2008, face South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors in the first leg of their quarterfinal on Wednesday.