Elkeson puts champs Guangzhou into AFC Champions League last 16
published : 22 Apr 2014 at 22:49
A first-half double from Brazilian striker Elkeson rescued title-holders Guangzhou Evergrande from possible elimination and sent them into the AFC Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.
Elkeson of Guangzhou Evergrande and Shingo Hyodo of Yokohama F Marinos jump for the ball in the AFC Champions League game at the Tianhe Sport Center in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on April 22, 2014
Marcello Lippi's injury-hit tournament favourites had been in danger of bowing out but they shrugged off the pressure to beat Yokohama F Marinos 2-1 in their final group game.
Guangzhou were joined by 2006 winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who survived a late penalty shout to draw 0-0 with Melbourne Victory and escape an ultra-tight Group G on goal difference.
Earlier in Group H, Western Sydney Wanderers beat Guizhou Renhe 5-0, the biggest win by an Australian club in the competition, to reach the knock-outs on their tournament debut.
And Japan's Kawasaki Frontale also progressed when they were 3-1 winners at home against Ulsan Hyundai, the 2012 champions who paid the price for losing their last three games.
Last week's shock loss to Victory had left World Cup-winner Lippi's much-admired Guangzhou in the perilous position of being level with all three of their group rivals on points with one game remaining.
But on a tense evening at Guangzhou's Tianhe Sport Center stadium, Elkeson took just 11 minutes to settle the nerves when he nodded the defending champions in front.
And the packed crowd were celebrating shortly before half-time when the big forward, fed by Muriqui, chipped the on-rushing goalkeeper and saw his shot headed over the line by defender Yuzo Kobayashi.
Guangzhou were without injured captain Zheng Zhi, although Muriqui started and Italy international Alessandro Diamanti was a second-half substitute as he also returned from a spell on the sidelines.
As Yokohama struggled to make an impression, Guangzhou had two glaring misses through Gao Lin and Elkeson, who blazed over an open goal after Muriqui's trickery had left the goalkeeper stranded.
And with five minutes left, Manabu Saito pulled one back with a scything left-footed strike from the edge of the box. But there was to be no miracle comeback by the Japanese side.
In Sydney, Shannon Cole put the Wanderers ahead in the sixth minute with a flying volley and they made it a tournament-record tally by an Australian side with a rush of goals late in the second half.
The Wanderers scored four in 13 minutes with Labinot Haliti seizing on a poor backpass to the goalkeeper and Aaron Mooy converting a penalty after Michael Beauchamp had his jersey tugged by Guo Sheng.
Japanese superstar Shinji Ono lit up Parramatta Stadium with an unstoppable volley and defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley completed the scoring with a free header off a corner.
"It's a fantastic feeling and to do it in that manner as well, five goals, after we lost the first game in the group," Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said.
"It was an uphill battle but the players have shown a lot of belief to finish top of the group."
Victory were unable to follow up last week's win over Guangzhou when they could only draw 0-0 with Jeonbuk, in a frustrating evening when a strong penalty appeal was waved away late on.
And Kawasaki went through thanks to goals from Yu Kobayashi, Yoshito Okubo and Jeci, against Rafinha’s lone strike for the visitors Ulsan.