Guangzhou: Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande booked their place in the final of the 2013 AFC Champions League on Wednesday evening as a 4-0 victory over Kashiwa Reysol completed a comprehensive 8-1 aggregate win over the Japanese club for Marcello Lippi’s side.
Guangzhou become the first Chinese club to reach the final of the continental club championship since Dalian Wanda lost in a penalty shootout to Pohang Steelers in the Asian Club Championship in Hong Kong in 1998 and will be aiming to become the country’s first Asian champions since Liaoning FC in 1990.
Elkeson (Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso) and Dario Conca both scored one apiece while Muriqui ((Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva) hit a brace to confirm Guangzhou’s place in the final, where they will meet either FC Seoul or Esteghlal over two legs on October 26 and November 9, with Guangzhou hosting the second leg in southern China.
Amid raucous scenes at a packed Tianhe Stadium, Guangzhou picked up where they left off in the second half of the first leg with a dominant showing in the opening 45 minutes, the only surprise being that the Chinese side went into the break with only one goal to show for their superiority.
Elkeson signalled Guangzhou’s intent with barely three minutes on the clock, only to drag his shot wide of the target; less than a minute later, Conca put the ball over the bar with his effort on the turn.
In the ninth minute, Elkeson proved too much to handle for the Reysol defence, pulling off a wonderful turn that allowed him to dance past two challenges before Takanori Sugeno somehow kept the low shot out with his fingertips.
The 25-year-old, currently the leading scorer in the Chinese Super League, thought he had claimed his fourth goal in four AFC Champions League starts in the 14th minute when he headed Gao Lin’s perfectly flighted cross home, only for a free kick to be given by referee Abdulrahman Abdou for a slight nudge.
Two minutes later, though, Elkeson had the ball over the line again, and this time it was legitimate after Reysol failed to clear Conca’s corner and Elkeson turned to fire the ball home with a low left-foot shot.
Zhang Linpeng almost made it 2-0 three minutes later with a thunderous drive from wide on the right that made a spectator of Sugeno, but the ball stayed in play thanks to the keeper’s right post.
As the half wore on, Conca had another effort pushed away by Sugeno while another Elkeson header was ruled out for a similar infringement to his earlier disallowed goal.
Reysol, with little other than pride to play for, came out in more determined mood in the second half and Kim Chang-soo and Jorge Wagner both forced saves out of Zeng Cheng in the opening 10 minutes of the half.
But three minutes before the hour mark Conca put the final nail in the Reysol coffin after a period of well measured build-up play ended with the Argentine heading in Rong Hao’s cross.
Eleven minutes from time Muriqui maintained his remarkable scoring record in this year’s competition, claiming his 12th in 12 games by sending a low right foot shot beyond Sugeno and, with three minutes remaining, he netted his 13th of the campaign after a through ball by Conca to spark scenes of jubilation amongst the 41,000 fans within Tianhe Stadium and beyond.