Guangzhou surge towards quarter-finals in AFC Champions League
Mainlanders' South America duo secure victory over Australians in Asian Champions League
Lucas Barrios and Muriqui moved Guangzhou Evergrande a step closer to the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League as the South American duo scored to earn the Chinese Super League champions a 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners last night.
Marcello Lippi's side were forced to come back from going behind to an early goal by Mitchell Duke, but the win in Gosford, New South Wales - and the two away goals scored in the process - puts Guangzhou in a strong position to advance to the last eight for the second year in a row.
Guangzhou were eliminated last year in the quarter-finals by Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad, but will now be confident of at least matching their showing in 2012 in this season's competition when they take on the Mariners in the second leg at Tianhe Stadium next Wednesday.
"We expected a difficult match and we got one," said Lippi. "Today our opponents had a very strong desire to win and they used their physical advantage to push us a lot. They had an early goal, but we gradually gained back control over the game and, especially in the second half, we did extremely well.
"We had two goals but, actually, we had chances to do even more, both Barrios and Muriqui wasted wonderful opportunities. I hope we can finish the round with a good result."
Duke gave central Coast the lead after just seven minutes as the Australian side kept Guangzhou on the back foot in the opening exchanges, the striker volleying home with style.
But Barrios pulled Guangzhou level 20 minutes later with a fierce drive following Zheng Zhi's ball over the defence and Gao Lin almost put the Chinese champions ahead two minutes after the restart with an acrobatic scissor kick.
With 14 minutes remaining, however, Muriqui found the back of the net for the seventh time in this year's competition - a goal that makes him the tournament's joint top scorer - with a fine finish that gave Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan no chance.