Alan fires Guangzhou into last 16
FABIO Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande cruised into the last 16 of the AFC Champions League yesterday after completing an unbeaten group campaign with a 3-1 win against Cerezo Osaka.
The Chinese Super League champion will be joined in the knockout phase by Thailand’s surprise package Buriram United, which secured second place in Group G with a 1-0 win at Jeju United in South Korea.
The Italian World Cup-winning captain Cannavaro saw the two-time Asian champion open the scoring after just 6 minutes through Huang Bowen.
It took Cerezo Osaka just 4 minutes to equalize when Takaki Fukumitsu sprung the offside trap and rounded goalkeeper Zeng Cheng to slot home.
But the Chinese team always looked in control at its Tianhe Stadium and sealed qualification after half-time with two close-range strikes from Brazilian marksman Alan Carvalho in the 57th and 86th.
Evergrande joins fellow CSL sides Shanghai SIPG and Tianjin Quanjian, who both play their final group matches today, in the last 16.
In Seogwipo, Buriram United’s Korrakot Wiriya-Udomsiri stabbed home the 57th-minute winner against Jeju that sparked wild celebrations for the Southeast Asian minnow.
The Thai champion is into the knockout phase for only the second time in its history. It lost in the quarterfinals in 2013 to Esteghlal of Iran.
In Group H, Dejan Damjanovic’s first-half goal put Suwon Samsung Bluewings through with a 1-0 win at already qualified Kashima Antlers.
The win meant the South Korean side won the group, with the Japanese club in second. But Sydney FC misses out in third place after it could only draw 0-0 with bottom side Shanghai Shenhua.
Sydney, which kicked off at the same time, needed to win at home against the already eliminated CSL side Shenhua and hope that Kashima could beat Suwon.
But despite piling on the pressure, it exited after failing to break down an under-strength Shenhua, which had travelled without star strikers Nigerian Obafemi Martins and Colombian Fredy Guarin.
The hosts’ frustration boiled over in stoppage time when Sydney’s Ben Warland appeared to kick Shenhua goalkeeper Qiu Shengjiong, sparking a melee.
“This was a very difficult match for us against a very strong opponent,” Shenhua head coach Wu Jingui said. “The best way to play a great team like Sydney is to play them hard. So I am very proud of the players for giving their best, especially in defense.”