China rejoices as Guangzhou Evergrande wins Champions League
Guangzhou Evergrande became the first Chinese winners of the AFC Champions League when they drew 1-1 with FC Seoul in the second leg on Saturday to take the title on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate tie.
The Chinese champions dominated but struggled to convert pressure into goals until Brazilian forward Elkeson broke the deadlock in the 58th minute, sending the majority of the red clad 58,000 capacity crowd at the Tianhe Stadium into raptures.
FC Seoul were level four minutes later with their first chance of the game, Dejan Damjanovic firing home to make it a nervy finale but Guangzhou survived to take a deserved title.
Guangzhou's victory means they will be Asia's representative at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco next month while Italian World Cup winner Marcello Lippi became the first coach to win both the European and Asian Champions League titles.
The Italian, who won in Europe with Juventus in 1996, was tossed in the air by his players after they collected their winners medals.
"When they (Seoul) did score it was a pretty dangerous situation for us because it made the game 50-50 for us and we were pretty worried," Lippi told reporters.
"But in the end we won this trophy and I think we deserved it."
His expensively-assembled Chinese side were strong favourites after drawing 2-2 draw in the first leg in Seoul last month and their milestone success was celebrated throughout the country despite their failure to hit the heights set in previous rounds.
Lippi sprung a surprise with his lineup by selecting midfielder Zhao Xuri ahead of forward Gao Lin but his side could have done with the extra attacker as they dominated the opening half against negative Seoul.
Argentine playmaker Dario Conca hit the post with two early efforts and Elkeson also went close with a long drive as the South Korean champions were lucky to stay level 0-0 at halftime.
The contest burst into life near the hour mark when Elkeson opened the scoring with some samba flair, producing an exquisite first touch to take a pass which fell behind him into his stride and calmly slotted home.
Damjanovic quickly levelled with a sharp strike as Guangzhou failed to clear but the Koreans did not test Zeng Cheng in the home goal again to leave China celebrating a first Asian club success since Liaoning won the Asian Club Championship in 1990.
While dozens of police and soldiers could be seen snapping photographs from the pitchside, fans and even regional governments took to popular microblogging site Sina Weibo - China's answer to Twitter - to rejoice in victory.
"After 24 years, the Asia cup has returned to China. Evergrande, this battle will live on in memories forever!" the local government of the poor northeastern province of Jilin wrote on its microblog.
The Chinese Football Association wasted little time in expressing its congratulations on the achievement many hope will spark a resurgence in the game there after years of corruption had blighted its growth.
"This is the highest honour for Chinese football," it said in a congratulatory message carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency. "We sincerely hope you keep working hard, but guard against pride and impatience."