Guangzhou thrash Cerezo Osaka 5-1
Brazilian duo Muriqui and Elkeson devastating for Evergrande, who all but book their place in the quarter-finals of AFC Champions League
Almost three months into their campaign, Guangzhou Evergrande finally clicked into gear to hand Cerezo Osaka a 5-1 thrashing in the first leg of their AFC Champions League round of 16 clash at Nagai Stadium on Tuesday night.
It left coach Marcello Lippi hoping for more of the same to come.
With Italy football international Alessandro Diamanti in stellar form, the reigning continental champions put on a performance that finally drew favourable comparisons with the club’s last year vintage form.
Brazilian duo Muriqui and Elkeson, so devastating last season in Guangzhou’s title-winning run, scored twice and Gao Lin also put his name on the scoreboard as Evergrande all but booked their place in the quarter-finals for the third season in a row.
More importantly, though, the win will have banished memories of a so-far lacklustre campaign in the AFC Champions League in which Guangzhou had rarely looked at their fluent, ruthless best.
“We gained this result by a big margin, but we weren’t expecting this kind of result,” said Lippi. “Our team has suffered for a while and we have had to change the players around a lot because we’ve had a lot of injuries.
“But with this win, I think we are getting back into good condition after all of our struggles. This is a great win for us, and I’m hoping this will help us get motivated for the upcoming matches.”
Muriqui gave Guangzhou the lead after 22 minutes and, although Cerezo levelled eight minutes later through Ariajasuru Hasegawa, the Chinese champions led 3-1 at half-time thanks to a pair of goals – one from the penalty spot and the other a header – from Elkeson.
Gao Lin came off the bench to add the fourth in the 78th minute before Muriqui put the outcome of the tie beyond any doubt six minutes from time.
The two teams will face off again at Tianhe Stadium next Wednesday but, barring a monumental collapse, Guangzhou will advance to the last eight yet again.