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AFC Champions League 2015

Elkeson turns on the magic for Guangzhou Evergrande to clinch their second AFC Champions League crown

Brazilian's super strike breaks the deadlock against Al Ahli as Chinese club secure title and qualify for the Club World Cup in Japan next month

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 November, 2015, 2:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 November, 2015, 2:15am

A moment of magic from Brazil's Elkeson earned China's Guangzhou Evergrande their second AFC Champions League title in three years last night after a tense second leg of their final against Al Ahli.

The striker's instinctive turn and toe-poke on 54 minutes finally unlocked the Emirati team's defence to earn a 1-0 win for Luiz Felipe Scolari's side after the first leg in Dubai ended goalless.

The victory was wildly celebrated at a packed Tianhe stadium - with more than 50,000 in the stands - erupting with delight.

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The 2013 champions, who won a fifth consecutive Chinese title three weeks ago, will now represent Asia at the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan next month after coach Scolari extended his unbeaten run to 23 matches since taking charge in June.

It was also a personal victory for Scolari, who led Brazil to a humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany in last year's World Cup semi-finals.

The 2002 Brazilian World Cup-winning coach owed yesterday's triumph to his compatriot Elkeson, a player whose position in the squad came under threat when Scolari signed former Real Madrid forward Robinho in July.

Scolari, though, opted for Elkeson, who had suffered injury problems this year, over Robinho as one of his four foreigners in the Champions League squad and the forward rewarded the coach's decision with a man-of-the-match display.

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The 26-year-old, who scored in both legs of the 2013 final, bamboozled his marker Salmin Khamis with a clever turn inside the penalty area before curling the ball with the outside of his foot past goalkeeper Ahmed Ashoor in the 54th minute.

It was a stunning piece of skill that finally brought an end to the deadlock between the two expensively assembled teams, who were again guilty of being overly cautious as in the goalless first leg in Dubai a fortnight ago.

Al Ahli proved worthy opponents, but their challenge was fatally holed when defender Khamis saw red for a stamp on 66 minutes, and was so incensed he had to be restrained pitchside by four or five club officials.

Evergrande nearly got a dream start when man-of-the-match Elkeson fed fellow Brazilian Ricardo Goulart in the box, but his close-range shot was well saved at the near post by Ahmed Ashoori.

Al Ahli nearly stunned Evergrande on the break, but Jose Lima's shot from the edge of the area, with passes available, was straight down the throat of goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

Evergrande suffered a blow when Zeng injured himself and had to be replaced by Li Shuai after he leapt to punch a cross clear and landed awkwardly on the ankle of teammate Huang Bowen.

Zheng Long went close with a near-post header after a well-worked move from the right, but overall the expensively assembled Chinese domestic champions failed to impose themselves in the first half.

However, Evergrande finally broke through after 144 goalless minutes against Al Ahli when Elkeson, receiving the ball with his back to goal, flicked it past a defender and stretched to slot it home.

Al Ahli's hopes faded further when a furious Khamis earned his straight red card for an apparent stamp on Zheng Long, and had to be restrained by three officials who wrestled him away from the pitch.

But Evergrande still needed heroics from South Korean defender Kim Young-gwon who made a superb last-ditch challenge on Lima when the Brazilian was one-on-one with substitute goalkeeper Li.

With Al-Ahli piling forward, Elkeson had a chance to relieve the stress, but he blazed a shot over the bar in the 94th minute.

As captain Zheng Zhi lifted the trophy to the strains of We Are The Champions, gold tickertape fluttered down and the players sprayed champagne and bounced Scolari up and down in celebration.