Analysis: Guangzhou edge holders after resolute display
Kashima: Guangzhou Evergrande sealed the last place in the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals as their 1-1 draw against Kashima Antlers secured and away goals victory and eliminated the defending champions.
The result means Fabio Cannavaro’s side return to the last four for the first time since winning the competition in 2015, but they were made to work hard for their victory and Kashima will feel hard done by to exit after creating a number of excellent chances.
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Kashima Antlers midfielder Ryota Nagaki admitted after the game that the J.League side had pinpointed set-pieces as a key threat ahead of the second leg, and they were proved right as Guangzhou’s only goal came following a corner from the left.
Huang Bowen sent in the delivery and Anderson Talisca gained a crucial yard on Koki Machida, allowing the Brazilian to get to the ball first and send a thumping header into the back of the net to leave the hosts needing two goals to advance.
40' GOAL! 1-0 Guangzhou Evergrande (1-0 on aggregate)— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) September 18, 2019
Talisca gets away from his marker and attacks the corner with authority to give the Chinese side a HUGE lead!#KASvGUA #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/KlcCT9QNDS
The goal was Guangzhou’s only attempt on target across the 90 minutes as the Kashima backline had a relatively quiet evening, but it was ultimately enough to send the Chinese side into the last four.
While the hosts generally defended Guangzhou’s set-pieces well, a slight lapse in concentration proved costly as the 2018 champions’ bid to become the first side to retain the title since Al Ittihad in 2005 fell by the wayside.
Pressure doesn't pay
Kashima cranked up the pressure as they sought two goals after the interval and the defending champions will feel luck was not on their side after coming agonisingly close on a handful of occasions.
While Leo Silva’s attempt deflected off Serginho for a fortuitous goal early in the second half, little went Kashima’s way thereafter with the latter seeing a wonderful curling effort rebound off the crossbar with 15 minutes to play.
The pair combined once more as Silva jinked his way into the box late on, but after his low effort evaded Zeng Cheng in the Guangzhou goal, defender Gao Zhunyi made a last-gasp clearance to deny the Kashima captain what would have been a match-winning strike.
In total, Kashima had 16 shots to Guangzhou’s six but just four of those were on target and while Go Oiwa’s team did not get the rub of the green, they may also feel they were not clinical enough as a resolute visiting defence remained firm.
No away wins, no problem
Guangzhou may have reached the semi-finals for a third time, but they have done so without recording a single victory on the road, having lost three and drawn two of their five fixtures away from their fortress Tianhe Stadium.
While they have gone 21 unbeaten at home, Cannavaro’s team rarely carry the same threat outside China PR and, just like in the Round of 16 against domestic rivals Shandong Luneng, they scraped into the next phase.
FULL-TIME | Kashima Antlers 🇯🇵 1-1 Guangzhou Evergrande 🇨🇳 (1-1 on aggregate, Guangzhou win on away goals)— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) September 18, 2019
👏 The two-time champions are back into the AFC Champions League semi-finals and will face @REDSOFFICIAL!#KASvGUA | #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/KB1m6rtKdj
Their 41 percent of possession was the least they have seen of the ball in the 2019 AFC Champions League as Kashima controlled large spells of the game. But the two-time winners, who made 46 clearances, have shown a never-say-die spirit away from home despite their lack of a victory.
Next up is another trip to Japan, with the first leg against Urawa Red Diamonds at Saitama Stadium and, with the return meeting in China PR, Guangzhou will feel confident of progressing even if they don’t win away. Furthermore, they have now eliminated Japanese opposition seven times and have yet to be ousted by a J.League side.
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