Soccer

Hiroshima beats Guangzhou to reach Asian Champions League knockout stage

Kyodo

Sanfrecce Hiroshima booked their ticket for the Asian Champions League last 16 with a game to spare following a 1-0 win over Group F rivals Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday.

While both sides created several chances at Edion Stadium, Sanfrecce, who lead the group, claimed the three points thanks to a first-half own goal.

With the win, Sanfrecce moved three points clear of second-place Daegu FC, which leapfrogged Guangzhou following a 4-0 thrashing of the already-eliminated Melbourne Victory.

“We were determined to get the win and the three points. The whole squad was really focused throughout our preparation,” left-back Sho Sasaki said. “I’m really happy we got the win. It was a tough game.”

Hiroshi Jofuku’s men were the more aggressive side early, putting the Guangzhou defense under pressure with balls to target man Patric from both wings.

Kohei Shimizu almost set up the Brazilian striker in the 11th minute, but his cross from the right sailed inches in front.

The J. League side’s goal came in the 15th minute off its third corner kick of the match. Tsukasa Morishima’s ball from the left, aimed toward Sasaki at the near post, deflected into the net off defender Tyias Browning.

With Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu watching from the stands, Samurai Blue defender Sasaki went close in the 21st minute, firing just wide with a long-range effort off his right boot.

The Chinese Super League side started imposing its will later in the half, with captain Gao Lin leading the charge. The veteran China striker shot just over the bar from the edge of the box in the 38th minute.

He later set up Zhang Xiuwei for a shot from the middle of the area that was blocked on the goal line by center-back Yuki Nogami.

The visitors continued to press aggressively for an equalizer in the second half.

Shots from Gao and Huang Bowen flew wide, while Hiroshima goalkeeper Keisuke Osako saved an attempt by Gao from inside the area in the 88th minute.

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