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Flashback: A quarter-final comeback thwarted

Kuala Lumpur: Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG will travel to Japan next week for their respective 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-final second legs against Kashima Antlers and Urawa Red Diamonds respectively. 

Today (September 12) marks two years to the day since the Chinese giants clashed in one of the most dramatic second-leg encounters in the competition’s history on a truly memorable night at theTianhe Stadium. looks back at how events unfolded.

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Guangzhou Stunned

Having been handed a heavy defeat at the hands of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in their maiden quarter-final appearance a year earlier, Shanghai were looking to make amends against their domestic rivals and they enjoyed a near-perfect first leg.

Hulk's penalty fired the hosts in front six minutes before the interval before Wang Shenchao headed in their second on the stroke of half-time to delight the more than 36,000 fans at the Shanghai Stadium.

The two-time champions were rattled and Wu Lei drilled home a third shortly after the hour mark, before the forward doubled his tally just minutes later as a 4-0 win seemingly gave Guangzhou little hope in the return meeting.

Brazilian Brilliance

With a mountain to climb, Guangzhou were given a boost after 20 minutes of the second leg when Shi Ke’s error allowed Alan through on goal to open the scoring and Tianhe Stadium then erupted as the Brazilian doubled their advantage with a fine header in the 35th minute.

The next 50 minutes passed with no goals, though, and Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side were heading for the exit door before they were given fresh hope when Ricardo Goulart stooped low to head home Alan’s cross with seven minutes to play and set up a nailbiting finale.

And Goulart then completed the most dramatic of comebacks with another fine header when he angled in Li Xuepeng’s cross in stoppage time to take the tie into an additional 30 minutes.

Extra-time Drama

Shanghai’s night then went from bad to worse when substitute Wang Jiajie was dismissed for a second bookable offence as humiliating exit now appeared likely. 

Incredibly, though, it was Andre Villas-Boas’ team who took control again after Hulk curled in a sumptuous 111th-minute free-kick to spark joyous celebrations among the visitors.

But yet more drama was to follow as Muriqui was upended in the box by Wang with three minutes remaining and Goulart completed his hat-trick with a cool finish from 12 yards to mean the all-Chinese clash would be decided by penalties.

A Cruel Finish

After such a heroic performance, Goulart surely didn’t deserve what came next, as the forward struck the inside of the post with the opening spot kick.

The Brazilian then had to watch on as each of the next nine penalties found the back of the net, culminating in Yu Hai dispatching the final kick to send Shanghai into a first-ever semi-final on the Continental club tournament.

Eventual champions Urawa, Shanghai’s 2019 quarter-final opponents, would bring their run to an end following a narrow 2-1 victory, but the Chinese Super League sides had produced a pair of matches that would go down in AFC Champions League history.

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