Pato inspires Tianjin into ACL last 8

AFP
Pato scored a goal and was instrumental in the other as Tianjin Quanjian beat 2-time winner Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals to reach the AFC Champions League quarterfinals.
AFP
Imaginechina

Wang Jie (third right) scores Tianjin Quanjian’s second goal — the equalizer — against Guangzhou Evergrande during their AFC Champions League last 16 second leg in Guangzhou last night. 

Alexandre Pato scored a goal and was instrumental in the other as Tianjin Quanjian beat 2-time winner Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals to reach the AFC Champions League quarterfinals last night.

The former AC Milan starlet from Brazil, who has rejuvenated his injury-disrupted career in China, inspired Tianjin to twice swiftly peg back Guangzhou in a 2-2 draw and squeeze through after the first leg ended goalless.

In the earlier game, a volley from Ricardo Lopes helped Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea into the last eight as it saw off Thailand’s Buriram United.

Defeat in the all-Chinese last-16 tie increases the scrutiny of Fabio Cannavaro, the Italian World Cup winner who took over from Luiz Felipe Scolari at Guangzhou in the close season after steering Tianjin into the ACL for the first time.

Guangzhou has dominated Chinese football for nearly a decade, winning 7 Chinese Super League titles on the spin, but it has now failed to win in its last 5 matches in all competitions under Cannavaro, exiting the Chinese FA Cup and now the elite Asian competition.

Guangzhou, which lifted the ACL trophy in 2013 and 2015, has vowed to build an all-Chinese team by 2020, but it was its Brazilian star who put the hosts ahead in the 17th minute.

Winger Alan saw his shot parried by visiting goalkeeper Zhang Lu into the path of striker Ricardo Goulart, who scrambled it in.

The home side’s lead lasted just 2 minutes, however, as Belgian international Axel Witsel stabbed over a floated cross for the 28-year-old Pato to head down and in for Tianjin.

Goulart nabbed his second with a free header on 48 minutes, but again Tianjin hauled itself level almost immediately, defender Wang Jie prodding in from close range 4 minutes later following a Pato set-piece.

In South Korea, Lopes’ clean strike on 18 minutes and Lee Jae-sung’s 84th-minute free-kick made it 2-0 on the night to Jeonbuk and 4-3 on aggregate as the former champion went through against Buriram.

Jeonbuk won the ACL in 2016 but the South Korean side was banned from last year’s competition over a bribery scandal.

A cushion header from World Cup-bound South Korea striker Kim Shin-wook teed up the Brazilian forward, who volleyed into the top corner to make it 3-3 on aggregate and put Jeonbuk ahead on away goals.

Lee, another Jeonbuk player named in South Korea’s preliminary World Cup squad, sealed the win when he curled home his left-footed free-kick with 6 minutes to go.


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