Guangzhou: Former champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors returned to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League after securing a nervous goalless draw with Group F winners Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday.
Jeonbuk only needed a point at a damp Tianhe Sport Center to secure qualification ahead of fellow former champions Urawa Reds with Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou already assured of qualification.
And despite several nervous moments, particularly in the second half with news Urawa had taken the lead against Thailand’s Muangthong United, Jeonbuk claimed second place to earn a meeting with Japanese Emperor’s Cup winners Kashiwa Reysol in the last 16 later this month.
Having played their part in eliminating Jeonbuk in the Group Stage for the first time last year, the point was enough to seal top spot in Group F for Guangzhou and home advantage in the second leg of their last 16 tie with A-League Grand Final winners Central Coast Mariners.
Guangzhou had the upper hand for the majority of the contest but struggled to create a clear-cut chance despite the best efforts of Muriqui ((Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva) with the Brazilian looking to add to his six goals in the campaign this season.
But with news filtering through that Urawa had taken the lead at the start of the second half against Muangthong, Jeonbuk’s nerves began to show as Guangzhou kept up the pressure.
And goalkeeper Choi Eun-sung needed a second attempt to gather Zheng Zhi’s well-struck effort with 17 minutes remaining as the Guangzhou captain’s first-time effort skipped off the wet surface.
But the Jeonbuk goalkeeper redeemed himself with 13 minutes remaining as Choi brilliantly turned Muriqui’s shot onto the crossbar with the Brazilian seemingly certain to score as he raced through on goal following Lucas Barrios clever dummy from Dario Conca’s defence-splitting pass.