Guangzhou: Guangzhou Evergrande confirmed their place in the quarter-finals of the 2013 AFC Champions League on Wednesday as a 3-0 win over Central Coast Mariners at Tianhe Stadium completed a 5-1 aggregate success for Marcello Lippi’s side.
Muriqui (Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva) scored his eighth goal in eight games while Dario Conca converted from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time to put Guangzhou in an unassailable position before Gao Lin netted in the second 45 minutes as the Chinese Super League champions moved into the last eight for the second year in a row.
Guangzhou will now go into the draw for the quarter-finals, to be held on June 20 in Kuala Lumpur, hoping to surpass their showing on their debut appearance in the competition last year, when they were eliminated in the last eight by two-time champions Al Ittihad from Saudi Arabia.
“I’m very satisfied with today’s result,” said Lippi. “We’ve been playing a lot of matches consecutively and it might have had an impact on us physically but today’s result was good.
“The players concentrated very well, in the game they were well organised and we have realised we are a strong team and we need to continue this way. We have acquired the sort of mentality that we would like to win every match we play.”
Guangzhou wasted no time building on their 2-1 first leg win with Muriqui racing on to Gao Lin’s through ball, beating the flat-footed Mariners defence in the seventh minute before slotting past Mathew Ryan via the inside of the goalkeeper’s right post.
Gao had already forced a fine save out of Ryan before Muriqui’s opener and the home side continued to impress, with Conca calling the goalkeeper into action again halfway through the opening period.
Central Coast rarely threatened with only Michael McGlinchey having much of a sight of goal when he tried his luck in the 30th minute, only for the ball to be deflected to safety by Korean defender Kim Young-gwon.
With the half moving into injury time, Guangzhou were given the opportunity to extend their lead when Muriqui was upended by Bernie Ibini-isei in the penalty area and Conca struck with aplomb, leaving Ryan rooted to the spot and putting the result beyond doubt.
Despite their advantage, Guangzhou maintained the intensity of their performance in the second half with Ryan again denying Muriqui just two minutes after the restart with a fine stop and, three minutes later, the goalkeeper frustrated Gao as Central Coast clung on to the slenderest of hopes.
Those hopes were finally dashed once and for all in the 68th minute when Conca slipped the ball through to Gao, whose first touch took him through on goal before giving Ryan little chance.
“You have to be honest and fair and say we were beaten by the better side,” said Central Coast coach Graham Arnold. “We had our best chances in Australia to win the game last week and put them under pressure here.
“But you have to be honest and say they were the better team. They have some wonderful players with blinding pace and they were the better team and I wish Marcello Lippi and Evergrande all the best for the coming games.
“I have to say in the two years we’ve been playing in AFC Champions League they’re the best team we’ve come up against. Overall it was 5-1 on aggregate but we had a lot of chances last week and some chances tonight but we didn’t take them.”