Italian manager Marcello Lippi took full responsibility on Wednesday evening as his Guangzhou Evergrande side were defeated 1-0 by Jeonbuk Motors in South Korea.
AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND 4
Jeonbuk Motors 1
Guangzhou Evergrande 0
Lippi’s side were lacklustre once more for much of the 90 minutes and played 23 minutes against 10-men following the dismissal of midfielder Hyuk Jung in the second-half of the clash.
With captain Zheng Zhi having left the pitch injured shortly after the break, Evergrande opted to reshuffle their defensive line and move Kim Young-Gwon into a midfield role for the remainder of the game.
The change unsettled the Cantonese side’s defence, however, and Jeonbuk took full advantage as Brazilian Leonardo swooped to score a fine late winner and open up the race to top Group G.
Evergrande enjoyed long spells of possession on the night (averaging 55 percent overall), but created little as the same disjointedness in attack that has hindered their start to the campaign struck once more.
Despite their dominance of the ball and territory on the pitch, it was their opponents who created the better opportunities and forced goalkeeper Zeng Cheng into important saves.
For much of the game it was Brazilian forward Leonardo, who eventually scored the Jeonbuk winner, who was the main threat for the hosts. In the early minutes the Brazilian stung the palms of Zeng before delivering a pinpoint cross towards Lee Jae-Song that was almost turned home.
Attacking midfielder Alessandro Diamanti registered Evergrande’s best effort of the half, but Zeng was soon forced into action once more as a poor pass from captain Zheng Zhi almost left him stranded with Lee Jae-Seong bearing down on goal.
Lippi introduced Brazilian Muriqui at half-time and almost saw an immediate impact as his deep cross was headed wide by Zhang Linpeng from the edge of the area. Shortly after, Zheng limped of the tie due to injury to be replaced by full-back Rong Hao, prompting a reshuffle that the manager would later describe as “a mistake” as Kim stepped into midfield.
There were warning signs as Lee Dong-Gook found acres of space in the area only to hit the post just minutes after the change, but a goal would not be long in coming. Before that, though, they would fall to ten men thanks to the dismissal of Hyuk Jung for a second yellow card.
Leonardo was the man who would eventually provide the goal, sealing a Man of the Match display with a calm finish from Lee Jae-Seong’s wonderful lofted through-ball. Rong Hao was slow to react as the ball flew over his head and the Brazilian made no mistake to help his side to a memorable victory.
Evergrande should not be too concerned by defeat to what is a good Jeonbuk side, but there are niggling concerns about the manner of their play this season that are yet to be addressed. A trip to Melbourne Victory in Round 5 could see the Cantonese side virtually assure a Last 16 berth, but for now the group remains firmly in the balance.
JEONBUK MOTORS: Kwon Soon-Tae; Lee Gyu-Ro, Wilkinson, Kim Ki-Hee, Lee Jae-Myung (Choi Bo-Kyung 79’); Hyuk Jung, Han Gyo-Won (Kaio 90+3’), Kim Nam-Il, Lee Jae-Seong; Lee Dong-Gook, Leonardo.
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE: Zeng Cheng; Zhang Linpeng, Mei Fang (Feng Junyan 84′), Kim Young-Gwon, Sun Xiang; Huang Bowen, Zheng Zhi (Rong Hao 52′), Liao Lisheng (Muriqui 46′); Diamanti, Gao Lin, Elkeson.
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