Guangzhou set up Mariners clash in ACL

Big-spending Guangzhou Evergrande will face Australia's Central Coast Mariners in the AFC Champions League knockouts while former winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors take on Japan's Kashiwa Reysol.

  • Published: 2/05/2013 at 02:49 PM
  • Newspaper section: news

Guangzhou Evergrande's Gao Lin celebrates after scoring against Thailand Muangthong United on April 3, 2013. Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou will face Australia's Central Coast Mariners in the AFC Champions League knockouts.

A point at home against Jeonbuk on Wednesday assured the Chinese Super League champions of top spot in Group F while the nervy 0-0 draw was enough for the South Koreans to edge out fellow former champions Urawa Reds of Japan on head-to-head records.

Also in the final round of group matches this week, last year's losing finalists Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia progressed as the winners of Group C and will play tournament debutants El Jaish of Qatar in the last 16.

And Buriram United, the first Thai team in a decade to reach the knockout rounds, will face Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan after finishing as runners-up in Group E behind FC Seoul.

Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou, seeking to become China's first Asian champions since Liaoning in 1990, are attempting to better last year's showing in the Asian club contest, when a late goal saw them bow out in the quarter-finals.

Mariners coach Graham Arnold said he cannot wait to pit his wits against Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach Lippi after his side reached the knockout phase for the first time in the club's history.

"Marcello Lippi is one of the world's truly great football figures and it's unquestionable he will be the most famous person ever to coach a team on the Central Coast," Arnold said.

"But while we will show Marcello and Guangzhou all the respect they deserve, we will not fear them. We have a two-week preparation heading into the game and our full focus will be on achieving a positive first-leg result to take to China."

Al Ahli, looking to go one better after the bitter disappointment of losing to South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai in last year's final, topped Group C after a 2-2 draw with Al Nasr of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.

"We played a beautiful game and we were so close to win as we created many scoring chances but we failed to score from these chances and eventually we had to settle for one point from the match," said Al Ahli coach Aleksandar Ilic.

"After securing our place in the knockout stage, the match was a chance for us to field some new players who didn't play in the previous matches and they put in a good performance... and I'm happy with them."

FC Seoul, looking to continue South Korea's recent strong showing in the competition, topped Group E but it was unheralded Buriram who stole the headlines, finishing as runners-up.

"I am very happy tonight," said Buriram coach Attaphol Buspakom. "We made it for the first time in our club's history. It was a tough game. My players did brilliantly to keep their nerves under control.

FC Seoul will take on Beijing Guoan in the round of 16.

Qatari side Lekhwiya set up a clash against Saudi giants Al Hilal after winning a tight battle to top Group B while runners-up Al Shabab Al Arabi of the UAE play Iranian outfit Esteghlal. Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia will face Qatar's Al Gharafa.

The match-ups in the round of 16 are played on a regional basis, with the first legs held on May 14 and 15 and the second legs the following week.

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Writer: AFP
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