GUANGZHOU, CHINA – China’s Guangzhou Evergrande did enough to move on to the Asian Champions League semifinal stage on Tuesday, securing a 1-1 draw with Kashiwa Reysol at Tianhe Sport Center Stadium to advance 4-2 on aggregate, keeping their hopes for a second ACL title in three years alive.
A 30th-minute screamer by Guangzhou’s Huang Bowen canceled out Kashiwa’s 1-0 lead, secured by Cristiano after 12 minutes.
The 4-2 aggregate victory saw Luiz Felipe Scloari’s Chinese Super League leading team reach the ACL semifinal for the first time since their successful 2013 campaign, bettering their effort from last season that saw their run end in the quarterfinal stage.
Despite the lopsided aggregate score line, Guangzhou did not escape the second leg without a scare.
Cristiano shocked the home crowd by taking an early lead for the visitors. The Brazilian cleared enough space for himself in front of goal to get a powerful header onto a free kick swept in from deep on the right by Akimi Barada, leaving Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng Cheng grasping at air as he dived to his right.
Zheng Long went close to squaring the game for Guangzhou minutes later, bustling through several defenders on the edge of the box before seeing his effort tipped over the cross bar by Kashiwa goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno. Zheng caused more problems for Kashiwa in the 20th minute but his poke over Sugeno slid agonizingly past the upright.
Huang Bowen evened the game soon after though, scoring Guangzhou’s fourth goal of the tie with a classy volley from the edge of the box off a Zheng Zhi cross. Huang’s left-foot strike gave Sugeno no chance as it rocketed to the right of the goalkeeper and into the top corner.
Guangzhou’s Elkeson missed a superb chance to put his team 2-1 up in the second minute after the break, scuffing a chance from directly in front after some excellent interplay down the right side by his teammates. On an ensuing corner, the offside flag saved Kashiwa when Elkeson’s headed goal was wiped off the board.
But Reysol were not going to lie down. Yusuke Kobayashi had a great chance deflected over the bar by an excellent Feng Xiaoting block in the 52nd minute, then Cristiano had a dipping shot tipped over the bar in the 59th and another long-range effort denied late as Guangzhou began sitting back to defend their lead. Despite more late Kashiwa pressure, the deadlock would not be broken.
Guangzhou will now meet the winner of the quarterfinal second leg between Japan’s Gamba Osaka and South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors to be played Wednesday. The first leg played in South Korea finished 0-0.
Domestic treble winner Gamba Osaka, the last Japanese club to win the ACL in 2008, is the last remaining Japanese team in the 2015 competition.
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