Night of glory for Guangzhou Evergrande and Lippi
Chinese fans savour their first continental title in 23 years and former Italy coach is the first to win Champions League in Asia and Europe
The wait is over for Chinese football as Guangzhou Evergrande secured an away goals win over FC Seoul at Tianhe Stadium on Saturday night to become the first club from the mainland to claim the AFC Champions League and the first to win a continental title in 23 years.
Brazilian striker Elkeson scored his second goal over the two legs in the 58th minute and, even though Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic equalised for FC Seoul, the 1-1 draw was enough to secure a 3-3 draw on aggregate and, as a result, China's first title since Lioaning won the Asian Club Championship in 1990.
The victory caps a remarkable rise from the second division of Chinese football four years ago to the summit of Asian soccer.
Video: Lippi's Evergrande clinch breakthrough AFC win
Guangzhou will now represent Asia at the Fifa Club World Cup in Morocco in December having also won the last three Chinese Super League titles.
"Winning this cup is very important for Chinese football," said Guangzhou coach Marcello Lippi, who became the first coach to win both the AFC Champions League and the equivalent in Europe
"We grew a lot and what we tried to do was reach the level of being able to compete against other teams at this level," he said.
"We won and that's good for Chinese football and for Guangzhou Evergrande.
"What we were able to do this year that we weren't able to do last year is recuperate and have the will to win the AFC Champions League.
"It's not easy for a team to play the same way home and away, but that's what we've been able to do and that gave us a great advantage in this championship."
Amid an expectant atmosphere, Guangzhou were dominant in the opening period but Lippi's side were unable to turn their huge amount of possession into goals, giving FC Seoul encouragement.
But 13 minutes after the restart Elkeson claimed his sixth goal in the six AFC Champions League games he has played since replacing Lucas Barrios in the squad for the quarter-finals - and that sent the home fans into raptures.
However, the euphoria was only to last for four minutes as Damjanovic - who had been quiet throughout the preceding 62 minutes - thumped the ball low past Zeng Cheng to keep the game on a knife edge.
FC Seoul pushed for the second they needed but it was Guangzhou who looked the more likely to score.
When the final whistle sounded, the draw was greeted with a relieved roar of celebration from the more than 40,000 home fans.
"Everything went as we planned," said Lippi.
"We started off very well in the first half and created a lot of opportunities, but the goal didn't come. In the second half, we scored the goal through Muriqui and Elkeson and they had some other chances too, but they weren't able to score.
"When they did score it was a pretty dangerous situation for us because it made the game 50-50 for us and we were pretty worried.
"But in the end we won this trophy and I think we deserved it."