Quarter-final - 1st Leg: Guangzhou Evergrande FC (CHN) 0-0 Kashima Antlers (JPN)
Guangzhou: Two-time AFC Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande were unable to make home field advantage count against reigning champions Kashima Antlers on Wednesday in the first leg of their quarter-final meeting as the pair shared a 0-0 draw at Tianhe Stadium.
Neither side was able to find a way past the other’s defence in a game affected by hot and humid conditions in the southern Chinese city and they will face off again next month with all to play for in the second leg at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
Elkeson made his first start for Guangzhou in the AFC Champions League in over three-and-a-half years after returning to the club from Shanghai SIPG earlier in the summer, but the Brazil-born forward was peripheral for much of the opening period as neither side was able to find a way through.
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Instead, it was Anderson Talisca who carried the main threat for the home side with his drive and determination keeping the Kashima defence guessing while it was another Brazilian, Leo Silva, who looked the most likely to unlock the Guangzhou backline.
The former Albirex Niigata man went closest to opening the scoring with seven minutes on the clock; Zheng Zhi made an uncharacteristic error in the centre circle to gift Kashima possession and, when the ball ended up at Leo Silva’s feet, he fizzed a shot narrowly wide.
FULL-TIME | Guangzhou Evergrande 🇨🇳 0-0 @atlrs_official 🇯🇵— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) August 28, 2019
🚫 It ends in a stalemate as neither side can be separated at Tianhe. Intriguing return meeting in Kashima to come.#GUAvKAS #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/jzmVXAm00a
There was little between the teams in the opening 15 minutes, with Paulinho flicking his header over the bar and Zheng slipping as he attempted to shoot from outside the area, while Elkeson’s effort from distance was straight at Kashima keeper Kwoun Sun-tae.
Serginho made a huge impact at this stage of the AFC Champions League last year, weeks after joining Kashima from Santos, and he almost put his name in lights again midway through the half when he flashed his attempt across goal having been set free in the Evergrande area by fine work from Sho Ito.
Talisca then forced Kwoun into action with an effort from out of nowhere, but the Korean was equal to the task, as he was when Wei Shihao was bearing down on him seconds later, this time the three-time AFC Champions League winner doing well to save with his feet.
The stifling humidity saw the pace evaporate from the game as the half approached its end, although there was still time in the dying moments of the first half for Talisca to threaten with a low free-kick that Kwoun kept out at the second attempt.
The tough conditions, though, continued to affect the game and second half goal scoring opportunities for both teams were at a premium.
Shoma Doi almost unlocked the Guangzhou defence when his curling cross found the head of Ryohei Shirasaki, only for his attempt to clear the crossbar, while Doi’s own attempt from distance soon after was easily collected by Zeng Cheng.
Kashima almost pinched the win two minutes from time when Shirasaki hit the crossbar from distance but, in the end, both sides were left to settle for a draw that ensures the second leg in Kashima on September 18 will be an enthralling clash.
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