AFC Champions League 2016

Jackson Martinez gets empty feeling in Guangzhou Evergrande debut in top regional club competition

Colombian striker’s career gets off to a torrid start as AFC Champions League title-holders are held to a scoreless draw

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 12:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 12:55am

Record signing Jackson Martinez’s Guangzhou Evergrande career got off to a torrid start on Wednesday, when the AFC Champions League title-holders were held 0-0 by Pohang Steelers in front of an empty stadium.

The Colombian striker, signed for 42 million (HK$359.6 million) this month from Atletico Madrid, failed to ignite a disjointed Evergrande attack as the deep-pocketed Chinese club’s Asian title defence started slowly.

Martinez, 30, had little joy, but he was denied a dramatic winner in the very last move of the game when he forced a close-range save and then a clearance off the line by Pohang defender Kim Kwang-suk.

The home fixture was played behind closed doors as punishment for Evergrande’s transgressions surrounding last year’s Champions League final, including filming a closed training session by their opponents Al Ahli.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari angrily prowled the touchline on a night when Evergrande ceded the early group H leadership to Urawa Red Diamonds, who beat Sydney FC 2-0.

Brazilian striker Ricardo Goulart looked odds-on to put the Chinese champions in front on 25 minutes, but he missed with his volley when it seemed easier to score.

Goulart miscued another good chance five minutes from half-time and just before the break, Martinez went down in an edge-of-the-box collision, which left him limping heavily.

Goulart fired over on 65 minutes and soon afterwards, he had a close-range volley parried by ‘keeper Shin Hwa-yong before former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho smashed the rebound way off target.

Guangzhou’s attack lacked fluency, but Martinez nearly snatched victory on 93 minutes when his point-blank shot was blocked by Shin and his instinctive rebound was kept out by Kim’s desperate lunge.

Earlier, a second-half Besart Berisha penalty gave A-League champions Melbourne Victory a 2-1 win over China’s Shanghai SIPG in Australia.

Victory remain unbeaten in seven home games in the competition, thanks to Berisha’s 73rd-minute spot-kick and newcomer Jai Ingham’s opener on 31 minutes.

Before the penalty, the Chinese Super League team coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson equalised through Wu Lei in the 52nd minute and Dario Conca also rattled the woodwork.

Also in group G, South Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings were held 0-0 by Gamba Osaka of Japan.