EVER­GRANDE

Paulinho puts Chi­nese cham­pi­ons in sight of last eight

New Straits Times - - Sport -

GUANGZHOU

PAULINHO’S late strike put Guangzhou Ever­grande in the driv­ing seat as they beat Kashima Antlers 1-0 in the first leg of their AFC Cham­pi­ons League round of 16 clash on Tues­day.

The ex-Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur mid­fielder struck on 75 min­utes to re­ward heavy pres­sure from Luiz Felipe Sco­lari’s Ever­grande, who lifted the Asian ti­tle in 2013 and 2015.

It was all the Chi­nese cham­pi­ons de­served against an un­am­bi­tious Kashima team, who nev­er­the­less will have hopes of over­turn­ing the deficit at home in next week’s sec­ond leg.

At Thai­land’s Thun­der­dome Sta­dium, Yu Kobayashi’s stun­ning vol­ley was the high­light as Kawasaki Frontale struck three times in the sec­ond half to con­vinc­ingly beat Muangth­ong United 3-1.

Kengo Naka­mura scored on 66 min­utes to can­cel out Teerasil Dangda’s first-half opener, be­fore Kobayashi cracked home his in­stinc­tive vol­ley with the out­side of his right boot on 69 min­utes.

Kobayashi turned cre­ator in the 89th minute for Kawasaki’s third, when he fired a low ball across the face to set up Hiroyuki Abe for an easy fin­ish.

In Guangzhou, Ever­grande edged an open first half in which Li Xuepeng and Alan were both de­nied by Kashima goal­keeper Kwoun Sun-Tae in the early ex­changes.

Kento Misao al­most gave the vis­i­tors a sur­prise lead when his glanc­ing header from a cor­ner crept past the far post on 21 min­utes.

Ever­grande coach Sco­lari looked in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated as Ricardo Goulart passed up a se­ries of chances and Alan was un­lucky with a turn and shot which jud­dered the stan­chion on 66 min­utes.

But the pres­sure fi­nally told on 75 min­utes, when a cor­ner from the right bounced across the goal­mouth and Paulinho gob­bled up his fourth goal of the cam­paign.

Goulart came close with a spec­tac­u­lar over­head and at the other end, Ry­ota Na­gaki squan­dered a golden chance to equalise when he put a free-kick wide in the dy­ing min­utes.

Quick-fire sec­ond-half goals from Al Hi­lal’s Ab­dul­lah Al Zori and Car­los Ed­uardo negated Has­san Beit Saeed’s opener for Estegh­lal Khuzes­tan as the Saudi side — run­ners-up in 2014 — se­cured a 2-1 vic­tory in Iran.

Me­hdi Taremi, the com­pe­ti­tion’s lead­ing scorer, missed a late penalty as Ira­nian out­fit Perse­po­lis were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Lekhwiya of Qatar.

Luiz Ju­nior struck the post for the vis­i­tors with a fizzing lon­grange ef­fort in the first half, but they were in­debted to goal­keeper Mo­hammed Musa who pro­duced a su­perb stop to deny Taremi from the spot on 82 min­utes. AFP

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