Round of 16 - 1st Leg: Guangzhou Evergrande FC (CHN) 2-1 Shandong Luneng FC (CHN)
Guangzhou: Yang Liyu’s deflected effort 10 minutes from time earned Guangzhou Evergrande a slim 2-1 advantage over fellow Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng on Tuesday in the first leg of their 2019 AFC Champions League clash at Tianhe Stadium.
Wei Shihao put two-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande in front 10 minutes before halftime but a stunning strike from Zhang Chi midway through the second period earned Shandong an away goal ahead of next week’s clash in Jinan.
But Yang’s effort in the 80th minute which took a deflection off Shandong defender Zheng Zheng means Guangzhou are 90 minutes away from booking their place in the last eight of the competition for the sixth time in eight seasons.
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Having been eliminated by Chinese opposition in each of the last two seasons, Fabio Cannavaro’s side will have been hoping to taken control of the tie in front of their own fans.
Wei looked set to put the hosts in front as the opening period approached the halfway mark when his deft touch and turn with his chest following Zheng Zhi’s perfectly flighted pass opened up the Shandong defence, only for the China international to smash the ball over.
Graziano Pelle and Marouane Fellaini threatened at the other end, the Italian denied by a fine saving tackle by Park Ji-soo before Fellaini’s effort was deflected wide as Shandong sought to eke out the opener.
But with 10 minutes remaining in the half Wei made amends for his earlier miss. Paulinho wrestled his way to the bye-line and, after Wang Dalei flapped at the Brazilian’s cross, Wei eventually stabbed the ball home.
Both sides created openings early in the second half as Shandong’s Zheng pulled his attempt from the edge of the area wide of the target before Paulinho shot over the bar at the other end from just six yards out.
And, with 66 minutes on the clock, Shandong pulled level. Fellaini was again involved as the Guangzhou defence struggled to deal with his physical presence before the former Manchester United midfielder fed the ball to defender Zhang and he crashed an unstoppable shot beyond Liu Dianzuo.
Guangzhou continued pushing, however, with Paulinho going close again before Yang restored Evergrande’s advantage 10 minutes from time when his attempted cross was steered beyond Wang thanks to Zheng’s deft touch to set up a thrilling second leg in seven days’ time.
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