An unfortunate own-goal from young midfielder Liao Lisheng saw Guangzhou Evergrande fall to a 1-0 defeat in their home fixture with J.League giants Cerezo Osaka, although the reigning champions advanced with ease due to their comfortable 5-1 advantage from the fixture in Japan.
AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2ND ROUND
Guangzhou Evergrande 0 (5)
Cerezo Osaka 1 (2)
Liao Lisheng OG 49′
Coming into the game off the back of a loss in the Guangzhou derby fixture last Friday, coach Marcello Lippi opted to send out his strongest available side—in spite of a sizeable advantage on the scoreboard.
His side, though, barely got going on the night, with the weight of recent fixtures and, perhaps, knowledge that their place in the quarterfinals was virtually secure seeing Evergrande fail to fire.
On a wet and windy night in the south of China, it was a game that very much reflected conditions off the pitch.
A dull first-half saw little action at either end of the pitch, with neither side showing much attacking intent or desire.
Cerezo looked the more threatening of the two sides, with Zeng Cheng forced into a fine low save from Ryu Nagai in the early minutes. In truth, though, there was little danger of note.
A speculative 30-yard effort from Australian Mitch Nichols was Cerezo’s only other effort of note, while Zhao Xuri can consider himself highly unlucky not to have opened the scoring when goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon made a fine reaction save to deny him after 25 minutes.
After the break, Cerezo quickly took the lead. A mistake from Kim Young-Gwon allowed Cerezo the opportunity to take a quick throw-in, which they quickly seized before Nagai fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal. Having spotted the danger of a midfield runner having snuck into the box unmarked, Evergrande midfielder Liao Lisheng could only turn the ball into his own net.
Despite falling behind, there was little change in momentum from the hosts. A couple of ambitious efforts from range from Italian Alessandro Diamanti aside, there was little of note in terms of attacking chances. Of the Italians efforts, only one caused any type of difficulty for goalkeeper Kim.
Nagai had the ball in the net once more for Cerezo after 89 minutes, turning home the ball after substitute Minamino had struck the base of the post. Unfortunately for the Japanese striker, the linesman’s flag was correctly raised.
At the other end, Elkeson almost struck in the depths of injury time with a towering header well beyond the back-post. Goalkeeper Kim, though, was up to the task with an excellent low save to his right that ensured victory. Anything else would have been completely undeserved.
Lippi has three games ahead of the summer break to nurse through his increasingly tired squad, with Muriqui once more an injury concern having limped off in the first-half of the clash. A potentially important clash with title rivals Beijing Guoan awaits on May 26 and the Cantonese will be desperate to ensure they arrive in the capital with their ranks replenished and firing.
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE: Zeng Cheng; Zhang Linpeng, Feng Xiaoting, Kim Young-Gwon, Sun Xiang; Zheng Zhi (Rong Hao 46’), Zhao Xuri (Huang Bowen 46’), Liao Lisheng; Elkeson, Alessandro Diamanti, Muriqui (Gao Lin 41’).
CEREZO OSAKA: Kim Jin-Hyeon; Araiba, Fujimoto, Yamashita, Ando, Someya (Yamaguchi 60’), Ogihara, Kotani, Nichols (Kakitani 79’), Kusukami (Minamino 60’). Nagai.
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