Pak Kret: Brazilian striker Muriqui scored twice as Guangzhou Evergrande moved ever closer to the knockout phase of the AFC Champions League with a 4-1 win over Muangthong United at Thunderdome Stadium on Tuesday.
Muriqui (Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva) scored twice in the late stage of the first half before Sarawut Masuk reduced the deficit for Muangthong but goals from Zheng Zhi and Feng Xiaoting ensured there was no doubt over the destiny of the three points on offer.
As a result, Marcello Lippi’s side notched up their third win in four matches and remain unbeaten in Group F on 10 points and are just one point away from a place in the Round of 16.
Guangzhou lead the group, four points clear of JeonbukHyundai Motors and a further two points clear of Urawa Reds, with Muangthong bottom of the group on one point. A draw in their next game – away to Urawa Reds on April 24 – will take Guangzhou into the knockout phase for the second season in a row.
“I am satisfied with the team’s performance,” said Lippi. “We were organised, competitive and fully concentrated throughout the game.
“The team followed the tactics and did not leave any space for Muangthong to attack. We were also able to create many chances and scored many goals.
“Muangthong played well in some parts of the game and tried their best as they were playing at home.
“I feel we already have enough points to qualify for the Round of 16, but we will try our best to look to win the two remaining games.”
The Chinese Super League and FA Cup winners had few problems against the Thai Premier League champions, with Muriqui (pictured) scoring twice late in the first half to all but secure the win inside the opening half.
In the 37th minute, the Brazilian latched on to Zheng Zhi’s perfectly weighted through ball before rolling the ball beyond the reach of Muangthong goalkeeper Weera Koedpudsa.
Three minutes later, Muriqui scored with a virtual carbon copy of his opener, only this time it was Dario Conca who provided the through ball that the Brazilian gleefully dispatched.
Despite the two-goal lead, any prospect of complacency was eliminated for Guangzhou when Muangthong halved the deficit. Zheng’s attempted clearance was blocked by Siaka Dagno, with the ball falling in front of Sarawut, who headed beyond Zeng Cheng to score.
It only took Guangzhou three minutes to restore their advantage, with Zheng atoning for his mistake with a low right foot finish from outside the area after a layoff from Gao Lin.
Zheng then turned provider with five minutes remaining when his in-swinging free kick from the Guangzhou left was parried by Weera and Feng swept his close range effort over the line as the Chinese champions scored four against the Thai side for the second week in a row.
“We have played two matches against Guangzhou. The result of the first match was not expected, but today I accept the result as Guangzhou played very well,” said Muangthong coach Slavisa Jokanovic. “Whenever we made a mistake they punished us.
“We played well in the beginning before conceding but after that the difference in terms of the quality of the players in the two teams proved the difference.
“We must do our best in the next two games and try to win more points. I hope next year we can be more competitive at this level. Playing in this competition is a very good experience for us, but we must improve to be competitive next year.”