Guangzhou Evergrande brought to an end over 20 years without an international trophy for a Chinese club when they won the Asian Champions League tonight, becoming only the second Chinese side to win an Asian trophy. The Cantonese side were crowned champions at Tianhe after a 1-1 draw, resulting in a 3-3 aggregate with Guangzhou the victor due to away goals.
It was a deserved result after Evergrande dominated much of the match and one that was welcomed by the 42,000 announced in attendance (though the real attendance was at least 10,000 more) and fans across Guangzhou.
With the first leg of the match a 2-2 draw in Seoul, Guangzhou went into the second leg with a slight advantage and, motivated by the large crowd, came out all guns blazing in the first half. Dario Conca particularly stood out, creating chances for himself and others, coming close more than once. However, Seoul was organized at the back and able to stand up to the home side’s attack, a tight first half saw both sides go into the locker room tied 0-0.
At the half, Seoul brought on Yun Il-Lok, a move to strengthen their attack and go for the goal they desperately needed. Yet it was Guangzhou that created the best chance early, Muriqui finding a bit of space and forcing Kim Yong-Dae to make a big save less than five minutes in.
The hero for Evergrande all season, Elkeson, came up huge just before the hour mark when a through ball found him in space and he provided a clinical finish to break the deadlock. Just when it looked like the flood gates would open for Guangzhou, Seoul star Dejan Damjanovic equalized four minutes later.
Seoul’s goal was completely against the run of play but it served to energize the Korean side and silence Guangzhou’s supporters. It took a stunned Guangzhou awhile to get over the initial shock, but the match quickly returned to a stalemate, with the ball stuck in the midfield and neither side able to create chances. Evergrande was able to create a few good chances, but shots from Huang Bowen and Conca never really challenged the keeper while at the other end of the pitch, Seoul’s Molina struggled to provide good service on corners and free kicks.
As the clock ticked down, Seoul was desperate for a goal that wasn’t coming, in the end the Korean side put in a valiant effort but were outplayed by the hosts. When the referee blew the final whistle, pandemonium ensued as the crowd managed a jubilant version of “Ode to the Motherland”, accomplishing something only one other Chinese club has ever done. For manager Marcello Lippi, he becomes the first manager to win both the Asian & European Champions League, while Evergrande’s other Brazilian star Muriqui was crowned MVP. The victory marks an amazing turn around for the Guangzhou club that only a few years before was in China’s second division due to match fixing and accomplishes the unthinkable goal big spending owner Xu Jiayin set for the club a few years prior.
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