Limp Guangzhou through to last eight of AFC Champions League
It was a disjointed performance and brought a second home defeat in a row for Guangzhou Evergrande, but their 1-0 loss on Tuesday night at the hands of Cerezo Osaka was not enough to deny Marcello Lippi and his team a place in the last eight of the AFC Champions League.
The loss to the Japanese side was the club's first at home this season in the continental championship, but having won the first leg 5-1 in Osaka last week, Liao Lisheng's 49th minute own goal was never going to be enough to cause an upset.
The Italian coach, though, was far from happy with the performance, which possessed few of the qualities that saw Guangzhou claim the AFC Champions League title last year in swashbuckling fashion.
"Two losses in a row tells us that we need to work harder, especially in our mentality; we have lots to do," said Lippi, whose team lost to local rivals Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League last Friday night.
"Sometimes our players seem lost, even though we are at the top in the domestic league and have also qualified in the AFC Champions League.
"But we need more and to improve continuously, and that is how we can become a great team.
"However, the most important thing is that we qualified. Not all the Chinese teams can reach into the last eight of the AFC Champions League.
"We have three games to play before the next round and in the second half of the year we have to sprint in every competition," Lippi added.
Guangzhou will now go into the draw for the quarter-finals when it is made at the Asian Football Confederation's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 28, with the defending champions set to face another club from the east of the continent in the next round.
Former champions Pohang Steelers are also through to the next phase of the competition, while Australia's Western Sydney Wanderers meet Sanfrecce Hiroshima from Japan and FC Seoul take on Japan's Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night to finalise the make-up of the eastern half of the draw.
This season, teams from the east and west of the continent are kept separate until the final of the AFC Champions League, which will be played on a home-and-away basis in late October and early November.