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SOCCER

Lippi plays it cool despite Guangzhou's healthy lead

Evergrande go to Doha with 2-0 advantage as they seek Champions League semi-final place

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 4:53am
 

Marcello Lippi has seen and done enough throughout his distinguished career to avoid making bold statements guaranteeing success, and was not for changing after seeing his Guangzhou Evergrande side beat Qatar's Lekhwiya 2-0 in yesterday's AFC Champions League quarter-final first leg.

A boisterous 41,000 crowd at Tianhe Sport Centre did have to wait until the final 20 minutes to see South American duo Dario Conca and Elkeson finally break the deadlock with a quickfire double in Guangzhou's second consecutive appearance in the last eight of Asia's premier club competition.

Guangzhou had until then failed to turn dominant possession into a genuine chance, but despite Lippi's unwillingness to speculate, his team are in pole position to become China's first AFC Champions League semi-finalists since 2005.

"It was a good match from our point of view even though we had a lot of chances and couldn't take more of them," said World Cup-winning coach Lippi. "I am happy but there is 180 minutes in this match so our goal is to go to Qatar and win.

"There is still a month wait until the second game so we will wait until then to think about what we will do."

A third Super League crown is seemingly a foregone conclusion with Lippi's side currently 14 points clear, so the Champions League appears to be the minimum requirement come the end of the year.

They have three domestic outings to contend with before the September 18 second leg in Doha, starting with Sunday's Guangzhou derby; unbeaten in the league, a run of demoralising defeats seems unlikely.

"We can't finish every match in the first few minutes," added Lippi, whose side lost 5-4 on aggregate to two-time champions Al Ittihad at this stage last year.

"We have reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League which is a very important tournament for us. We did create many chances and we won 2-0 which is very satisfying."

A 75th minute penalty from Argentine playmaker Conca finally opened the scoring for Guangzhou after AFC Champions League leading scorer Muriqui had wasted the best chance of the first half for the home side.

And with Brazilian Elkeson adding a composed finish three minutes later on his AFC Champions League debut, having scored 20 goals in the Super League this season, Guangzhou's fans will allow themselves to look ahead to a meeting with either Japan's Kashiwa Reysol or Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab in the semi-finals. They drew 1-1 last night.

"Marcello's side showed why they are the best in China so they are big favourites to go through, but I think we will see another Lekhwiya in a few weeks," said Lekhwiya coach Eric Gerets.

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