Guangzhou Evergrande headed to Korea to face off against Jeonbuk Hyundai last night and showed that despite this being the club’s first ever Asian Champions League match, they were up to the challenge and then some. Unlike fellow Chinese side Beijing Guoan the night before, Guangzhou never looked tentative and was on the attack from the very start. Chinese sides have often struggled against Korean teams in the ACL, but Guangzhou made it look easy, coasting to a 5-1 victory.
Cleo and Gao Lin combined on the first goal, a beautiful one-two play that saw Cleo put it past the keeper in the 27th minute. Before Guangzhou scored, the play was really end-to-end, but the goal opened things up even more, with both sides creating chances, however it was Evergrande that would get back on the board, this time through a Conca free kick. At the half the Chinese champs were up by two to the dismay of the home crowd who were almost outnumbered by Guangzhou fans who made the trip to Korea (though the club subsidized some of the costs and covered meals and hotels for fans).
It’s still amazing to think Guangzhou considered getting rid of Cleo in the offseason, he showed his worth with another brace, scoring his second in the 68th minute. This time it was on a far bigger stage than the Chinese SuperCup. Cleo’s second goal started a flurry of scoring when in the 70th minute, Lee Dong-gook got one past Guangzhou’s keeper, who didn’t always look great. Any fears that Guangzhou would fall apart were quickly swept aside when moments later Conca added his second tally, another great shot from distance, this time from around 25 yards out. The other part of Guangzhou’s attacking triumvirate must have felt left out, so Muriqui stepped up and scored one of his own in the 74th minute to top off the scoring on the night.
If this was a sign to the Chinese Super League, it was read loud and clear, Guangzhou is ready for the upcoming season, not even rumors of their attempts to bring Mario Lippi to China could distract the squad who are looking like the smart money favorite’s to win the title in the upcoming season and be the first ever Chinese Super League side to repeat.
Things aren’t so optimistic in Tianjin, the only Chinese side to be home in round one, who only managed a nil-nil draw against Central Coast Mariners. A draw in the group’s other match means that Tianjin still has plenty of hope to get out of the group stage. With plenty of time before the next ACL matches, the Chinese clubs now turn their gaze toward the domestic league.
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