Guangzhou Evergrande suffer first Champions League loss in 12 months
Reigning champions last lost a group match against Japan's Urawa Reds in April last year
Guangzhou Evergrande slipped to their first AFC Champions League defeat in almost a year last night as Marcello Lippi's side succumbed 1-0 to 10-man Jeonbuk Motors in the group stages of the 2014 edition of the continental championship.
The reigning champions last lost a group match against Japan's Urawa Reds in April last year, having already qualified for the knockout rounds, but this defeat - delivered via a fine strike by Brazilian striker Leonardo - could have repercussions later in the competition.
Guangzhou remain on seven points from four games in group G, with Jeonbuk now level on points. Melbourne Victory are three points adrift in third, the same as Yokohama F Marinos, with two games remaining.
Lippi's side travel to Australia in two weeks to take on Melbourne and will do so without the services of Gao Lin, who picked up his second booking of the group stages against Jeonbuk.
Guangzhou have been lacking the spark, so often on display in last season's campaign.
"I thought today's game should've ended in a 0-0 draw," said Lippi.
"Our performance wasn't particularly bad, but we made some mistakes and I take responsibility for those."
Despite playing the final quarter of the game against a depleted Jeonbuk, who were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Jung Hyuk was sent off for a second bookable offence, Guangzhou rarely looked capable of scoring.
The champions lacked the fluency that made them so irresistible last season and Lee Dong-gook could have given Jeonbuk the lead in the 62nd minute, only for his close-range effort to come back off the post.
Jung's sending-off five minutes later should have given Guangzhou the boost needed to pick something up from the game, but instead it was the home side who went looking for all three points and, in the 76th minute, they claimed their reward.
An inch-perfect ball into the penalty area from Lee Jae-sung was sent beyond Zeng Cheng by Leonardo with a classy side-footed volley that gave the goalkeeper little chance and left Lippi with much to ponder.
Shandong Luneng, runners-up to Guangzhou in last season's Chinese Super League, suffered a 4-2 loss against former champions Pohang Steelers on home soil last night as the South Koreans moved to the top of group E with two games to go.