Beijing Guoan in last 16 of AFC Champions League
Goalless draw enough for Beijing club to progress in AFC Champions League
A 0-0 draw with J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima was enough for Beijing Guoan to book a berth in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League, but a similar result spelt the end of Guizhou Renhe's involvement in the continental club championship.
Needing to win to have any chance of advancing in their debut appearance in the competition, Renhe notched up a 2-2 draw against already eliminated Suwon Bluewings to lose out to Australia's Central Coast Mariners for a place in the knockout phase of the competition.
But there was no such woe for Guoan, who picked up a point against a youthful Hiroshima side to secure second place in group G behind Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor and set up a mouthwatering clash with South Korean champions FC Seoul in the next round.
"It was hard to get through this group but our players worked very hard," said Guoan coach Aleksandar Stanojevic.
"I am thankful for that. I also want to thank our fans, who supported us even after we lost in our previous game and that encouraged us so much.
"It was an away game for us and we played against the J-League champions. Their youngsters surprised me. We wanted to play slow to secure one point, which was important to us."
Guoan will host the first leg against last year's K-League winners, who confirmed their place in the next phase of the competition following the previous round of matches as winners of group E, on May 14 before travelling to Seoul for the return fixture a week later.
With Guoan's place in the last 16 secure, there will be at least two Chinese Super League sides in the knockout phase for the first time since 2005, when both Shenzhen Jianlibao and Shandong Luneng progressed to the quarterfinals at a time when only group winners advanced.
Under the revised format of the competition - implemented in 2009 - the top two teams qualify and Guangzhou Evergrande have already secured one of the places from group F and meet 2006 champions Jeonbuk Motors tonight needing only a draw to seal first place in the group, and with it home advantage in the second leg of the round of 16.
Winning the group would set up a meeting with Central Coast Mariners while finishing second would mean a date with Kashiwa Reysol, who finished on top of group H as Renhe faltered.
Defender Zhang Chenglin scored with four minutes remaining to pull Renhe level with Suwon, who had taken the lead in the 34th minute through Lee Jong-min, only for Sun Jihai to equalise just before half time.
Kwon Chang-hoon put Suwon in front again before Zhang levelled, but Renhe were unable to find the winner required in the dying minutes and exited the competition at the expense of Central Coast.
"This is our first AFC Champions League season and this match is just like a reflection of our journey from the first game until the last one with lots of ups and downs," said Renhe coach Gong Lei.
"It would be a good script for a show.
"Although we haven't qualified, we have beautiful memories and this journey will benefit our team greatly."