Elkeson clicks into gear for Guangzhou
Brazilian striker scores a brace as Evergrande reach last 16 of AFC Champions League
The striker Elkeson rediscovered the form that helped steer Guangzhou Evergrande to the AFC Champions League title last season to ensure the reigning champions secured a berth in the last 16 of this year's continental championship.
The Brazilian scored twice in the first half as Marcello Lippi's side downed Yokohama F Marinos 2-1 at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou on Tuesday night to pick up their first win in four AFC Champions League matches and secure top spot in group G.
Guangzhou will be joined in the round of 16 by South Korean side Jeonbuk Motors, who drew 0-0 with Melbourne Victory, and the Chinese Super League side will face either Shandong Luneng, Cerezo Osaka or Buriram United in the next round next month.
"I'm very satisfied with today's performance. At the moment the team is not in the best shape. We have had problems and a list of injuries," said Lippi.
"But I'm happy with this game, and my players fought hard out there. Given the difficult circumstances of playing two games in three days, I have to praise my team for winning the game.
Guangzhou played a Chinese Super League match on Saturday, beating Shanghai Shenhua 2-1, which kept Guangzhou in pole position in the domestic league.
"Personally I don't have a preference in terms of our opponents in the next stage in the AFC Champions League. It will probably be Shandong or Buriram, we will see tomorrow [Wednesday]."
Elkeson has struggled so far in the AFC Champions League this season, but there were no issues for the 24-year-old against Japan's Emperor's Cup winners as he finally clicked into gear.
He claimed his side's first goal after just 11 minutes when, after good approach work by Muriqui and Gao Lin, Elkeson directed his header beyond Marinos goalkeeper Tetsuya Enomoto.
Guangzhou squandered several opportunities to double the advantage until - seven minutes before the break - Elkeson struck again, this time lifting his shot over Enomoto with Marinos defender Yuzo Kobayashi unable to keep the ball from crossing the line.
The home side looked to be cruising to a comfortable win, but a spectacular strike from Manabu Saito six minutes from time caused some anxious moments for Guangzhou, but Lippi's team saw out the match to advance to the last 16 for the third season in a row.