This week was the saw the second legs of the second round matches in the Asian Champions League, prior to kick-off it looked like two Chinese representatives would be in the quarter finals as opposed to the guaranteed one.
Tuesday saw Guangzhou Evergrande visiting Kashima with a first leg 1-0 lead. A 1-0 lead obviously gave Guangzhou the advantage, but with only a narrow lead, they were well aware a trip to the Japanese champions was not going to be easy, particularly since they have struggled away in this years competition.
The game started in an open manner with Kashima Antlers knowing they had to score at least one and Guangzhou knowing that any goal they scored would leave Kashima having to win by two, due to Kashima’s failure to register an away goal. After an exchange of chances the home side took the lead with a very well placed strike strike from outside the box by Brazilian import Pedro Junior, even after Guangzhou’s best efforts to bring him down. Following this the game maintained in the same vein, Guanzghou knowing a goal would mean Kashima would need to score two more, Kashima also knew a another goal would settle things down for them as well. For the rest of the half both teams came close but did not add to the score line.
It appears Big Phil Scolari’s half time team talk was effective as going in the second half Guangzhou looked a lot brighter an were having the better of the play. Within ten minutes another Brazilian, Paulinho got the leveller, with the corresponding display of joy and relief that getting crucial away goal usually brings. The goal was by no means picture-esque with the ball being bundled in after series of errors, but as the old saying goes they all count and this goal according to another phrase counted double. From then on Guanghou were a lot more comfortable and had the best of the rest of the rest of the half. However, in the second minute of stoppage time the home grown Kanazaki scored a very well taken goal to give the home side a modicum of hope. However, it was too little too late and despite losing on the night, Guangzhou went through on away goals.
Wednesday saw the second leg of the all Chinese match up with the struggling Jiangsu Suning hosting the in-form Shanghai SIPG. Last week Shanghai SIPG had got a well deserved 2-1 win and were firm favourites going in to the second leg, on account of Jiangsu’s domestic season failing to have got going. Jiangsu would need to display some of their AFC champions League form in double helpings if they were to even think about turning round the result.
The game was fairly open, with Jiangsu coming close on a few occasions, but it was the visitors that broke the deadlock. Brazilian import Elkeson took advantage of a mix up between the Jiangsu defence and goalkeeper to slip the ball in to the net. It was a cheeky and opportunistic but well taken strike, but with the score standing at three one on aggregate, it was then a long way back for Jiangsu. To add insult to injury Shanghai got a second at the end of the first half via an own goal, it was one of those brilliant own goals in which it looked like the defender did everything he could to guide the ball in in as emphatic a manner as possible. Aside from the fact home defeat looked inevitable, it effectively put an end to Jiangsu’s Champions League, now needing a four goal swing.
Never the less in the second half Jiangsu kept pushing and getting close, eventually pulling one back via a header from Korean Hong JeongHo with quarter of an hour to go. Following this there was the inevitable kitchen sink throwing, but they had to wait to stoppage time to get a second consolation goal to level things on the night with another header, this time from captain Wu Xi. However, the last laugh belonged to Shanghai as their in form talisman Hulk made a characteristic power run through the entire Jiangsu defensive line and slotted home, to add to his scrap book of fine goals from his time in China.
In summary, if a Chinese team are to be crowned kings of Asia this was the ideal set of results, with the seemingly ever reliable Guangzhou doing a job against one of the pre-tournament favourites. It is probably also for the best that Shanghai made it through in place of Jiangsu as Shanghai are the in-form Chinese team and it would be a stretch to see Jiangsu successfully manoeuvring through three more games against top quality teams.
Whether or not the Chinese teams are capable of winning the competition is as yet unclear, but in a quarter-final which will see both of them play teams from Japan, or each other I would be surprised not to see at least one Chinese representative in the semi-finals. They are definitely capable of being the best representative from East-Asia, but due to the peculiarities of the competition, will not meet a middle-eastern team until the final, of which I am not sure of the quality.
All that’s left is the prawn cracker and for sure this again goes to Hulk, a lovely bit f skill to start off the move followed by a devastating run and equally decent finish. Enjoy.