On a night of pure passion, Guangzhou possessed too much attacking flair for J-league side Kashiwa Reysol to handle, cruising to a 3-1 victory. Roared on by a huge wall of noise, it was one of those nights which you sensed belonged to Guangzhou.
Make no mistake, Kashiwa played quite well with their probing passing game but Guangzhou were up for this game and had an extra edge with their incisive passing, extra pace and clinical finishing. Muriqui especially was a key figure in tonight’s clash pulling Kashiwa’s midfield and defence out of position with his pace and skill, while Gao Lin was having one of his better games in a 2012 Evergrande shirt. However, most importantly, Guangzhou’s local and foreign players were playing as a team, while the huge vocifirous home crowd acted as a 12th man. The ACL has really captured the imagination in Guangzhou, with the excitement and noise created something to behold.
The early stages of the contest were end-to-end with both teams trying to throw down the gauntet and impose their style, Chances fell to both sides but it wasn’t until the 28th minute that the break-through arrived. A long ball was flicked on by Cleo and Muriqui managed to sprint through 3 indecisive Kashiwa defenders only to be brought down slightly outside/inside the penalty area. Muriqui’s pace and momentum saw him fall deep into the penalty area with the referee awarding a penalty. Conca duely despatched the penalty kick. 1-0 Guangzhou and the roof was lifted off Tianhe Stadium. The remainder of the half saw Guangzhou trying to increase their lead but, with Kashiwa stretched and is disarray, the final pass or shot was found wanting.
Kashiwa started the 2nd half with a determination to get back into the game and their crisp passing created a couple of early chances and a warning to Guangzhou that they would be in for a battle. The equaliser came in the 50th minute when a free kick swung into the box created a goal mouth scramble, with Kasai getting the important final touch. Rather than drop their heads, Guangzhou dusted themselves off and found another gear. Moments later Guangzhou were almost immediately ahead again as a cross-shot by Gao Lin was narrowly missed by the outstretched foot of Cleo. They didn’t have to wait long though, as in the 57th minute Guangzhou were back ahead when Gao Lin and Sun Xiang combined down the left with the latter whipping in the perfect cross for Muruiqui to notch a rare headed goal. The following 25 minutes consisted of a concerted effort by Kashiwa to get back into the game again, yet Guangzhou were equally, if not more dangerous, on their pacey counter attacks. The game was put to rest in the 84th minute when another Guangzhou counter-attack had a tiring Kashiwa team in trouble with Cleo and Muriqui combining to outwit 5 Kashiwa defenders and Muriqui firing in from an acute angle on the right of the penalty area for a superb finish. As the game drew to a close, Guangzhou went in search of a 4th goal and it almost came when Conca’s 20 yard effort dipped over kashiwa’s keeper only to hit the crossbar. The referee ended the contest to a deafening roar and the celebrations began.
With 2 games remaining, Guangzhou are now in the driving seat to progress to the knockout stages but only 3 points separate first from last in the group of death.
The official attendance was given as 40,000 (with approximately 150 Kashiwa/Japanese expat fans) but that figure looked a good 8-10,000 short of the actual attendance.
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