Evergrande keep Asian hopes alive with their first win in AFC Champions League
Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari breathes a sigh of relief as his team finally put points on the board but they are still in a precarious position in group H
Guangzhou Evergrande kept their stumbling AFC Champions League title defence alive with a deserved 2-0 win over Pohang Steelers on Tuesday – their first victory of the competition.
Chinese international striker Gao Lin set up the first goal and scored the second as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side finally got a win at the fifth attempt in group H.
But the well-heeled Chinese domestic champions are still relying on Sydney FC beating Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday if they are to stay in the competition.
The win for Evergrande, the leading light of cashed-up China’s football revolution, was their first in the Asian tournament since they won their second title in three years last November.
“It was not an easy game but we played well, defended well and we had chances to score more goals than they did,” said Guangzhou coach Scolari. “As far as reaching the Round of 16 is concerned, we can focus only on what we can control and tonight we did a good job and we will keep on doing so.
“There is still work to do for us but we will keep going until the end and do our best.”
Evergrande were on top but wasteful in the early exchanges as ex-Spurs midfielder Paulinho passed up a string of chances, including a scuffed shot from just outside the six-yard box.
The champions’ opener came in the 33rd minute, when Gao fired a raking ball to Ricardo Goulart and the Brazilian gobbled up the chance from a tight angle at the back post.
Pohang managed little in reply and Gao doubled Evergrande’s advantage two minutes after half-time when he arrowed a diagonal shot past home goalkeeper Kim Jin-Young.
Evergrande should have had a third nine minutes later when substitute Li Yuanyi met a cross from Yu Hanchao sweetly on the half-volley. But his shot crept just wide.
Xu Xin was off-target when he ran through one-on-one with the ‘keeper, and Pohang’s Yang Dong-hyun nearly scored in the dying minutes but put his close-range chance over the bar.
Pohang coach Choi Jin-cheul apologised to the fans for his team’s defeat.
“I want to thank the players for their efforts and apologise to the fans; it was a frustrating night for us,” he said.
“After conceding, we tried to get back in the game but were unable to do so.
“We know, however, what we have to do in the final game against Urawa Reds.”
Elsewhere a double from Brazilian striker Santos kept the last-16 hopes of Suwon Samsung Bluewings alive as they beat Gamba Osaka 2-1 away in group G.
Santos scored twice in eight minutes shortly after half-time before a consolation strike from Yasuyuki Konno in the 89th minute.
With the win, Suwon put pressure on Melbourne Victory for second place in the group and a place in the competition’s knock-out stages.