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Paulinho: We played one of our best games of the season

Thursday, May 23, 2019
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Guangzhou: Paulinho hailed the fighting performance from Guangzhou Evergrande as the Brazilian scored the game's only goal in a 1-0 win over Daegu FC to secure a place in the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday.

The two-time champions went close to exiting at the Group Stage for just the second time in their proud eight-tournament history, but they were indebted to their former FC Barcelona midfielder once more.

Only victory over visitors Daegu FC would suffice for Fabio Cannavaro's side to leapfrog the Koreans into the runners-up spot in Group F and it was Paulinho's 64th minute intervention that proved to be the difference-maker.

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"It was an extremely difficult game today against very tough opponents who only needed a point from this match," said the 30-year-old Brazilian.

"While for us, we were well aware that only by getting the win today could we advance to the AFC Champions League's Round of 16.

"So the tension and pressure was very high on the team."

At the 2016 edition, Guangzhou - entering that year's AFC Champions League as holders - stunningly bowed out at the Group Stage, beaten to the Knockout Stage qualifying spots by Australia's Sydney FC and Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds.

The only time this had previously happened since the AFC Champions League was relaunched in 2002-03 was in 2015 when defending champions Western Sydney Wanderers exited at the first hurdle.

And, Paulinho admitted, avoiding a premature end to their Continental campaign this time around required the team to raise their game to new heights.



"It was a big challenge but so important for us to reach the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League," said the man who was part of the 2015-winning side.

"From the first minute until the last minute we fought together as a team.

"I’d have say it was one of our best games of the season."

Due to Beijing FC's scintillating form in their domestic championship, Guangzhou have a lot of catching up to do on the home front. Three league games and an FA Cup match are next on the agenda for Paulinho and his teammates, a schedule that includes trips to Henan Jianye and fellow Round of 16 side Shanghai SIPG.

And, after that run of fixtures, the Guangdong club will also face their countrymen, Shandong Luneng, this time in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League.

Nevertheless, Paulinho is convinced that the battling performance against Daegu will set the side on the right path for the challenges to come.

"Of course, after any victory like this it helps to increase our confidence as we saw our quality once again when it mattered," he added.

"It will help us now moving forwards with all the matches to come in the Chinese Super League, the AFC Champions League and other competitions."

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