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No Mercy! Evergrande Destroy Kashiwa Again En Route to First ACL Final

Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0 (Agg. 8-1) Kashiwa Reysol

ACL Semi-final Second Leg

Elkeson 16′, Conca 57′, Muriqui 79′, 88′

After the weekend’s novel diversion of an all-Chinese line-up in their CSL game against Hangzhou Greentown, it was back to their swashbuckling South American troika and the rest of the regular starting eleven for Guangzhou Evergrande’s ACL semi-final match at Tianhe Stadium. Though the cast had changed, the weekend’s result was replicated anyway as the ostentatious Cantonese side swanked their way to a 4-0 victory against opponents they had already put four past in the first leg last week.

With the result of the tie effectively a foregone conclusion, one might have forecast the home side taking it a bit easier in this fixture, but Lippi (and possibly upper management) had other ideas. China’s flavour of the month ripped into their Japanese opponents from the whistle, Zhang Linpeng scuffing a shot into Sugeno’s fortunate arms with only 45 seconds gone.

Though Reysol broke for the occasional counter, Guangzhou’s dominance was overwhelming and Elkeson had already seen a shot parried just wide of the post and a goal disallowed for a non-existent foul on Suzuki before finally opening the scoring in the sixteenth minute. Just as in the first leg, the opener was down to fortuitously poor defending as much as anything; the Elk was left unmarked in the box as a Conca corner sailed over the heads of the defenders in front of him, allowing him plenty of time to sweep the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.

The lead didn’t give much pause to the national heroes. Evergrande continued playing as if it was they that had to score four, with Gao Lin in particular uncharacteristically haring about the pitch like his life depended on it. Zhang Linpeng hit the junction of crossbar and far post with an audacious effort from well outside the box on the right that would have been an instant contender for goal of the season had it gone in, and Elkeson had another goal disallowed for another dubious foul call, this time on Sugeno, before physical limitations eventually came into play and the assault slowed down. Kashiwa were allowed more time with the ball but were so constantly harried in possession that they were unable to create much of note.

The physicality of the away side’s play may also have disturbed Guangzhou’s flow. Hashimoto was booked 34 minutes in for dragging down Gao as he attempted to bypass him on the way to the box, but the Qatari referee had allowed several untoward challenges to go unpunished by that stage. It was unfortunately no surprise when the same player escaped without a second yellow for his forceful foul on Zhang four minutes later that led to the defender being replaced by Rong Hao at the interval.

Reysol came out on the offensive after the restart and forced Evergrande on the back foot for much of the second half. Cleo in particular was at the forefront causing trouble in the penalty area, and an unusually nervy looking Zeng Cheng fumbled a number of balls he should have caught, but the home defense forbade passage well and there was seldom any major threat.

Unfortunately for Kashiwa, their hosts were much more clinical in their countering maneuvers than they had been. Ten minutes into the half, Elkeson probably should have scored when sent free up the left, and two minutes later the lead was increased when a lovely Rong Hao cross from the right was headed home by Conca.

Lippi immediately replaced Gao with Zhao Xuri to fortify the midfield, and shortly after Baptista also started ringing the changes, Cleo departing just before the hour to the warm appreciation of the home crowd. He made two more substitutions in the next ten minutes, but they didn’t make much difference as his team continued struggling to get clear sight of goal.

Guangzhou started breaking more often and more forebodingly as the game entered its final quarter of an hour, and soon enough the three South Americans combined lethally on the counter, with Muriqui finishing off the move. Suddenly we were back to something like the frenzy of the opening period, and it was strange to see the foreign forwards so apparently distraught at missed chances when six or seven goals up on aggregate. It was almost as if too much time at Yujing Bandao had been spent sitting around watching ‘historical’ dramas on local TV.

Kudo was denied a consolation by the crossbar before Muriqui forced home his second in the dying stages, with the magnificent Conca providing his third assist of the game on top of the goal he had put away himself. Now on eight goals, he is the competition’s second highest scorer this season. The two Muriqui scored here bring his total in the ACL this season to thirteen, making him already the record season’s top scorer in the Asian Champions League’s eleven-year history with the two-legged final still to come.

Here Evergrande, the first Chinese team to reach this stage of the competition in its current incarnation, will face Seoul FC, who drew 2-2 with Esteghlal in Tehran for a 4-2 aggregate victory. The South Koreans saw off Beijing Guoan in the second round, with a scoreless draw in the Chinese capital and a 3-1 victory in their own, so will be no pushovers. With the Evergrande juggernaut on this kind of form though, the task facing them is formidable.

Guangzhou Evergrande: 19 Zeng Cheng; 32 Sun Xiang, 6 Feng Xiaoting, 5 Zhang Linpeng, 28 Kim Young-Gwon; 10 Zheng Zhi, 16 Huang Bowen, 15 Conca; 29 Gao Lin, 9 Elkeson, 11 Muriqui
Subs: 22 Li Shuai, 33 Rong Hao (for 5 Zhang Linpeng 46′), 37 Zhao Xuri (for 29 Gao Lin 58′), 4 Zhao Peng (for 10 Zheng Zhi 74′), 7 Feng Junyan, 8 Qin Sheng, 30 Yang Chaosheng

Kashiwa Reysol: 21 Sugeno, 3 Kondo, 4 Suzuki, 22 Hashimoto, 27 Kim Chang-Soo, 20 Barada, 15 Jorge Wágner, 28 Kurisawa, 9 Kudo, 11 Cleo, 18 Tanaka
Subs: 16 Inada, 26 Ota (for 11 Cleo 61′), 14 Kano (for 18 Tanaka 65′), 8 Sawa (for 15 Jorge Wágner 71′), 2 Fujita, 5 Masushima, 23 Watanabe, 29 Taniguchi

Irish Guangzhou Evergrande fan, following them since I fortuitously found myself living next to Tianhe Stadium in 2011, reporting on them for Wild East Football since 2012.



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