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Kashiwa: Guangzhou Evergrande handed Kashiwa Reysol a devastating 4-1 defeat in the first leg of their AFC Champions League semi-final as the Chinese Super League side came from behind to demolish the Japanese side at Hitachi Stadium on Wednesday and take a significant step towards the final.

Brazilian striker Muriqui (Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva) scored twice to take his tally in the competition to 11 goals in as many games while Dario Conca was on target and Kim Chang-soo also put the ball into his own net under pressure from Elkeson (Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso).
Cleo (Cléverson Gabriel Córdova), who is ironically on loan from Guangzhou, was credited with giving Kashiwa the lead after just 10 minutes following a free kick by Jorge Wagner but four second-half strikes put Marcello Lippi’s side firmly on top.
Muriqui claimed his 10th of the tournament when he levelled the scores in the 58th minute and Dario Conca moved the Chinese champions ahead for the first time after 67 minutes.
An 82nd minute own goal by Kim – following Conca’s low, in-swinging corner – and an stoppage-time strike by Muriqui means Kashiwa must win by four clear goals at Tianhe Stadium next week to become the first Japanese side to reach the final since Gamba Osaka when the won the title in 2008.
Kashiwa went in front when the ball took the faintest of touches off Cleo’s head as fellow Brazilian Jorge Wagner sent in an in-swinging free kick from the Reysol right and there was little Zeng Cheng could do as the ball bounced past him.
Cleo’s physical presence caused the Guangzhou defence constant problems in the opening 45 minutes, with the former Guangzhou man sending his shot from the edge of the area just wide and a header straight at Zeng.
Muriqui spurned a golden chance to level the scores in the 23rd minute when he found himself with time and space to score, only for his left-footed effort to clip the inside of Takanori Sugeno’s right post before bouncing to safety.
Eight minutes from the end of the half, Kashiwa could have doubled their advantage but Zeng somehow managed to keep out Junya Tanaka’s close-range effort with his right foot after another fine delivery by Wagner.
A tactical rejig in the second half by the Italian World Cup winning coach shifted the balance in favour of Guangzhou, and by midway through the half the Chinese side had gone from a goal behind to one in front.
Muriqui levelled the scores in the 58th minute when Naoya Konda failed to clear Sun Xiang’s cross from the left and the Brazilian pounced, firing the ball emphatically into the roof of the net.
Nine minutes later, Guangzhou punished Kashiwa’s misfortune just seconds later when, after Wataru Hashimoto’s header was cleared off the Guangzhou goal line, the Chinese champions stormed to the far end of the pitch and, after Elkeson’s effort was blocked, Conca thumped a left-footed shot from 20 yards beyond Sugeno’s despairing dive.
Guangzhou were now in complete control and, eight minutes from time, they took a significant step towards a place in next month’s AFC Champions League final when Conca’s corner from the right was deflected over his own goal line by Kim whilst under pressure from Elkeson.
Kashiwa’s hopes were all but buried a minute into injury time when Muriqui slid the ball in from the left to earn Guangzhou what could be an unassailable advantage and ensure they become the first Chinese side to reach the final of the continental club championship since Dalian Wanda in 1998.

Photo: WSG

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