Goulart double puts Evergrande into last 16
GUANGZHOU: A Ricardo Goulart double steered two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande into the AFC Champions League last 16 as they drew 2-2 with Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Tuesday.
After cancelling out Yeom KiHun’s opener, Goulart looked offside as he headed Evergrande 2-1 ahead on 68 minutes, before Kim Jong-Woo’s late equaliser caused some late jitters.
But the single point was enough to take Evergrande, the 2013 and 2015 champions, into the knock-out rounds in second place in Group G behind Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale.
Scolari celebrated wildly on the touchline as the Chinese giants erased memories of last year’s embarrassing group-stage exit when they were defending champions.
Japan’s Kawasaki smashed Hong Kong debutants Eastern, led by their trailblazing female coach Chan Yuen-ting, 4-0 to rise from third place to top spot.
Elsewhere Ji Xiang’s 81stminute winner handed Group H table-toppers Jiangsu Suning a 10 win over 2008 runners-up Adelaide United.
Ji produced a clinical finish when it mattered — in what was only the Chinese team’s second shot on target — to end Adelaide’s faint hopes of progressing.
South Korea’s Jeju United made sure of second spot when they beat Gamba Osaka 2-0 thanks to goals from Chung Woon and Hwang Il-Su.
Chung scored on 29 minutes with a deflected shot before Hwang’s memorable strike on 66 minutes, when he cut inside a defender and curled in his shot from a distance.
In Guangzhou, Yeom raised tensions among home fans when he scored from a cut-back on nine minutes, before Goulart equalised eight minutes later.
Evergrande then grabbed a 2-1 lead when the Brazilian forward headed in Gao Lin’s cross from what replays strongly suggested was offside.
With 10 minutes left, Suwon’s Kim made it 2-2 when he made a Cruyff turn outside the box, created some space and rifled his shot in off the woodwork.
But Evergrande, who have won the last six Chinese Super League titles, held on to maintain their bid for a third Asian trophy in five years.
Meanwhile, in West Asia there were no surprises as the UAE’s Al Ahli topped Group A on goal difference after they thrashed Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan 4-0.
Salmeen Khamis put the Emiratis ahead with a 27th minute strike in Dubai before a Mamur Ikramov own goal in the second half helped them consolidate while Asamoah Gyan and Everton Ribeiro put the result beyond doubt.
Iran’s Esteghlal also finished on 11 points after edging out Saudi Arabia’s Al Tawoon 2-1 to secure second spot and advance to the last 16.
Kaveh Rezaei netted a 76th winner for Esteghlal after Al Tawoon’s Mohamed al-Saiari 36th minute strike had put them on level terms after Jaber Ansari’s 19th minute goal.
Group B also panned out as expected with Qatar Stars League champions Lekhwiya emerging as the top team after a 4-1 romp over Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh in Doha.
Mohamed Musa, Yousef Msakni, Ali Hassan Afif and Chico Flores were on target for Lekhwiya in the first half while Al Fateh pulled one back thanks to an own goal by Flores attempting a clearance from a corner.
Lekhwiya — aiming to emulate their local rivals Al Sadd’s amazing title winning run in 2011 — finished with 14 points, while Iran’s Esteghlal Kouzestan played out a 1-1 draw with the UAE’s Al Jazira to confirm their spot in the last 16 with nine points. AFP
Ricardo Goulart (right) of Guangzhou Evergrande celebrates with teammate Paulinho after scoring against Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Tuesday.