Urawa Reds 3-2 Guangzhou Evergrande
AFC Champions League Group Stage Match 5
Koroki 52′, Abe 63′ Marcio (pen) 67′ ; Barrios 37′, Muriqui 87′
Guangzhou Evergrande fell to their first defeat of the 2013 Asian Champions League, but assured progression to the Last 16 in a 3-2 away loss to Urawa Reds. Having beaten Urawa convincingly in Matchday 1, the Cantonese side would have travelled to Japan hoping for another victory, but never really looked up for a game that their opponents desperately needed to win.
There will be complaints about the officiating, in a match where the hosts were awarded two very soft penalty decisions. But, in truth, Marcello Lippi’s side can have no complaints about the outcome. Frustration at his team’s showing would get the better of the Italian in the second half, as he was dismissed for kicking a water bottle. In the final minute of the game, he would then be followed to the changing room by defender Zhang Linpeng, who saw red for a moment of madness on the right touchline.
The game had started in fairly even fashion, with Urawa going close in the opening minutes before Dario Conca forced goalkeeper Kato into a good save with a curled left-footed shot. However, midway through the half, the Iranian referee would make his first contentious decision of the day in awarding the hosts a penalty for a Kim Young-Gwon foul on striker Marcio Richardes. Replays would show very little contact. Up stepped experienced midfielder Yuki Abe, but the Japan international could only watch on in horror as his spot-kick hit the left upright and bounced across goal.
Evergrande were reprieved, and it was not long before they took advantage, with Muriqui winning the ball in midfield and freeing striker Lucas Barrios to round the keeper and open the scoring. It would take a fine Zeng Cheng save in the dying moments of the first half to maintain the scoreline, though, to maintain the status quo. The second half, though, would be a disaster for the visitors, in a series of events that would have repercussions beyond the tie in question.
Urawa came out firing and it was within minutes of the second half getting underway that they had their first chance, as Marcio just failed to get on the end of a low ball across the face of goal. It was a major reprieve, but the Japanese side would make amends just minutes later as Koroki was on hand to turn home a ball from the right, following a poor Kim Young-Gwon header. Soon after, it was 2-1. Conca allowed left-back Makino to push forward unchallenged down the flank and his low cross was slid home by Abe. Evergrande had once more been the masters of their own downfall.
Urawa would soon go on to extend their lead, and once more the referee was keen to get in on the act. This time, with Zheng Zhi filling in at right-back, Koroki took a tumble in the area and the Iranian official pointed to the spot for a second time. Zheng and his teammates were incensed once more. This time, though, they would be punished as Marcio stepped up to convert from the spot.
Evergrande’s chances of victory looked to have disappeared in the space of 15 minutes, and frustration at their own performance was bubbling away. Coach Lippi had seen enough, kicking a water bottle in frustration down the touchline. The referee decided it worthy of sending the Italian to the stands, and it remains to be seen if he will face further action. Muriqui would add to his ACL tally in the final minutes, turning home a free-kick at the backpost, despite having initially been flagged offside. After deliberation between the officials, though, it was agreed that it had been a Urawa head to flick the ball on and the goal would stand.
Suddenly Evergrande had life in them once more, as hope swept through the side. Players were now rushing to recover possession, with one last push for an equaliser underway. The pressure of the atmosphere all proved too much for the hot-headed Zhang Linpeng, though, who responded to an alleged hair pull by barging his opponent to the ground. The referee had no option but to reach for his red card, and Guangzhou were reduced to 10 men for the game’s final moments. It now remains to be seen how many games Zhang will miss through suspension, in a potentially costly error for his side.
Urawa Reds: Kato, Nasu, Makino, Moriwaki, Abe, Suzuki, Hirakawa, Kashiwagi, Marcio Richardes, Ugajin, Koroki.
Guangzhou Evergrande: Zeng Cheng; Zhang Linpeng, Feng Xiaoting, Kim Young-Gwon, Sun Xiang; Zhao Xuri, Zheng Zhi, Conca; Muriqui, Gao Lin (Rong Hao 46′), Barrios.
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