Guangzhou: Brazilian forward Muriqui was the star of the show as 2012 AFC Champions League quarter-finalists Guangzhou Evergrande handed former champions Urawa Reds a 3-0 defeat at Tianhe Stadium on Tuesday to make the perfect start to Group F of the 2013 edition of the continental championship.
Muriqui (Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva) scored one and set up another for Lucas Barrios as Guangzhou underlined their status as one of the favourites for the title by seeing off the 2007 champions. A late Keita Suzuki own goal sealed the win for Guangzhou.
“I'm happy that we won and very satisfied with the performance of my team,” said Guangzhou’s World Cup winning Italian coach Marcello Lippi. “Our opponent’s players have good skills, and are very good at controlling match zonally. The entire match was very smooth, so I'm happy to have this result. We have prepared for it for so long.
“In my team the Chinese internationals were not with us in our training camp and two of them came back with injuries. So we were not in our best shape. However we were able to win in less than perfect circumstances, which is very encouraging and inspiring.”
Guangzhou took the lead after just 16 minutes when Barrios rolled the ball home from close range following a mazy run by Muriqui, who bamboozled Tomoaki Makino before rounding goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato and cutting the ball back to allow the Paraguayan to score.
Two minutes later Muriqui, the 2011 Chinese Super League player of the year, could have doubled his side’s lead when he was played in on goal by captain Zheng Zhi but Makino cleared the goal-bound effort off the line.
With a minute remaining in the half, Dario Conca saw his free kick pushed to safety by Kato and, early in the second half, the Argentinian was denied again by the Urawa goalkeeper from another set-piece.
Guangzhou secured the second their dominance deserved in the 65th minute as Muriqui (pictured) capped his performance with a fine goal as the home side pressured Urawa into a mistake at the back and Muriqui received a return pass from Gao Lin to score with an authoritative finish.
And with only seconds remaining, Guangzhou claimed a third as Muriqui’s run into the Urawa penalty area caused consternation before a Zheng Zhi header came back off the crossbar and was directed over the goal line by the unfortunate Suzuki.
“It was a shame that we lost, especially by such a big and unexpected score,” said Urawa coach Mihailo Petrovic. “This was good game. First they have so many good players and that’s why they won it. Secondly we have played in our style, I'm quite happy with that. Thirdly we have created some opportunities, but unfortunately couldn't turn them into goals.
“Muriqui is such a good player and put so much pressure on our defence. We couldn't defend successfully against him. Before the match we had arranged a player to mark him, but there were still too many mistakes in the match.
“Facing such a team which is overall good with quality individuals, it is very difficult to win. We will adjust ourselves for the second game and hope we can win.”