Lunar New Year Cup: Shandong Luneng book their place in the final after comeback win over New Zealand outfit Auckland City
- The Chinese Super League side had to fight back from a goal down with Brazilian Roger Guedes hitting a double
Shandong Luneng booked their place in the final of the Lunar New Year Cup with a hard-fought 2-1 win over New Zealand Premiership leaders Auckland City at Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday.
After an attritional first half ended goalless, Auckland’s Micah Lea’alafa wasted no time in putting the reigning New Zealand champions in front when he got on the end of a through ball with the Chinese defence caught napping and slotted past Wang Dalei in the Shandong net with just 20 seconds gone in the second half.
Shandong’s response was swift but their main focal point Graziano Pelle wasted a glorious opportunity to level the score on 50 minutes.
With the Italian growing increasingly frustrated with the service he was receiving, it was another of the Chinese side’s foreign players, Brazilian Roger Guedes, who got the equaliser when he expertly dispatched a free-kick over the Auckland wall leaving keeper Enaut Zubikarai with no chance.
Auckland, who were playing their second game in four days with the prospect of a third-place play-off on Thursday to negotiate before they return to domestic action at the weekend, battled gamely to get back in front and weren’t without opportunities, the impressive Jordan Vale at the heart of much of their best play.
However, with the prospect of extra-time on the horizon, 22-year-old Guedes struck again to seal the win for Shandong. Zubikarai was at fault, palming a tame effort straight into the path of the former Palmeiras man who converted a straight forward chance from a yard out.
Shandong will now meet either the Hong Kong’s league select or Japanese J.League outfit Sagan Tosu in Thursday’s final.