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AFC Champions League

Urawa put Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao on brink of ACL elimination

Urawa Red Diamonds beat Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao 1-0 to give a slim chance of the reigning Asian champions moving on from the group stage.

AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP H

Urawa Red Diamonds 1

Yuki Muto 52′

Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC 0

Attendance: 30,282

The two sides last met on March 16 in Guangzhou whenUrawa were able to savage a draw 2-2 with a goal in the 89th minute from Shinzo Koroki, leaving Guangzhou still without a win in the champions league. Coach Felipe Luiz Scolari claimed there was nothing wrong with team however just that they needed to work harder.

Urawa manager Mihailo Petrovic talked before the match about his team’s chances. He acknowledged Guangzhou’s high quality players and strong side yet felt the pressure was on them to get a win.

Guangzhou came out attacking however Urawa were well organized and had a clear game plan of dictating play. For the first twenty minutes the passing and possession of Urawa was impressive and Guangzhou saw little of the ball.

Urawa’s slick passing almost paid off in the 24th minute as 2015 East Asian Cup top scorer Yuki Muto was left with room have a shot at the top of the box. Guangzhou keeper Zeng Cheng leaped and at full stretch punched away the ball.

Urawa had great movement off the ball throughout the match and really exposed some defensive problems with Guangzhou. The former champions were very slow and their marking was very sloppy leaving many Urawa players able to exploit space to string passes together.

A bit of hope came Guangzhou’s way when in the 37th minute a shot from Brazilian Ricardo Goulart deflected off compatriot midfielder Paulinho and almost into the net.

Yuki Muto continued to be a threat the rest of the first half making impressive runs and getting around defenders. In the 44th minute he moved past a few defenders before Guangzhou captain Zheng Zhi brought him down outside the box before he could get in on goal. Japan manager Vahid Halilhodzic was spotted in the stands and the Bosnian had to be impressed by the 27 year old’s ability.

Despite the first half dominance, Guangzhou almost found the first goal at the start of the first half. In the 47th minute a cross into the box was flicked on by Goulart for Paulinho but all the former Spurs man could find was the post.

Things swung back in Urawa’s favour and in the 52nd minute Muto was rewarded with a goal. Takahiro Sekine’s cross was hit down by Tomoya Ugajin with Muto left only to flick the ball into the net with his head. It was a fine team goal and illustrated Urawa’s great play.

The scoreline was almost doubled when Slovenian Zlatan Ljubijankic got around a defender and was in on goal. Unfortunately all he could manage was a weak shot right at Zeng Cheng.

Guangzhou seemed destined for their loss when big money signing Jackson Martinez played in Paulinho only for him to shoot high from inches outside the goal line. The miss was impressive in that a tap would have done but the force with which Paulinho struck the ball caused it to balloon into the stands.

Paulinho’s lack of aim cost Guangzhou a few goals throughout the match. The Brazilian certainly has the strength to strike with power however he just smashes it with no placement.

In the dying moment a few good saves from Zeng Cheng kept the score from being 3-0 or something else unpleasant. One has to feel sorry for the keeper as he was left all alone by his defenders on multiple occasions.

Tomoaki Makino should be applauded for his marking of Jackson Martinez. The former Koln defender left Martinez frustrated and stopped him from being a threat. All this done without picking up a yellow. A true man of the match performance.

Guangzhou must now win both of their remaining matches and hope Urawa lose all of theirs to still qualify for the knockout round, but there looks to be little chance of Urawa losing both matches with their strong showing in this match. With Guangzhou all but out of Asia one has to think changes will come this summer for players and staff alike.

Guangzhou next play away to Pohang Steelers while Urawa travel down under to take on Sydney FC.

Adem has lived in China a few years spending most of them in Beijing. The capital provides all the football one could ask for. Adem’s knowledge of Chinese cursing and geography were all learnt through watching matches.

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