Guangzhou, Wanderers advance to 2nd round in ACL
SYDNEY (AP) Guangzhou Evergrande ensured its Asian Champions League title defense progressed to the knockout stages while Al Ain topped Group C after a 1-1 draw against two-time winner Al Ittihad.
Brazilian midfielder Elkeson scored both Guangzhou’s goals in a 2-1 win over Yokohama F-Marinos on Tuesday night, helping the big-spending Chinese Super League champions finish atop Group G.
K-League club Jeonbuk Motors held on for a 0-0 draw at home against Melbourne Victory, advancing in second place on goal difference. Victory, which had an upset win over Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou side in Melbourne last week, needed a win over the 2006 champion Jeonbuk to advance.
Western Sydney thrashed an understrength Guizhou Renhe lineup 5-0 to finish atop Group H, edging Kawasaki Frontale on goal difference. Kawasaki beat Ulsan Hyundai 3-1 to knock the 2012 champions out of the competition.
Needing only a draw to advance, the Wanderers opened the scoring in the 6th minute via Shannon Cole, who controlled a cross with his chest at the edge of the area before spinning and driving a shot inside the left post.
The Wanderers didn’t score again until Labinot Haliti swooped on a sloppy defensive error in the 75th to make it 2-0, triggering a late flurry against an understrength Guizhou team that was already out of playoff contention and had only three available substitutes – and no backup goalkeeper.
Aaron Mooy scored with his first touch, a penalty kick in the 81st, before Ono charged onto a ball that had been punched away by the Guizhou keeper and drove a long-range half volley into the back of the net.
The Wanderers joined the A-League in 2012-13 and have reached the knockout stage of the continental competition in just their second season.
”It’s a fantastic feeling – to do it in that manner as well, five goals,” coach Tony Popovic said. ”To finish on top of the group is something special.”
Al Ain secured top place in Group C after its draw with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad, which finished second.
Al Hilal advanced to the knockout stage for a seventh consecutive time, with Nassir Al Shamrani scoring in first-half stoppage time to give the Saudi club a 1-0 win over Sepahan of Iran and top spot in Group D.
Al Sadd secured the second spot with a 2-1 win over UAE league champion Al Ahli, with a Rodrigo Tabata strike 11 minutes from time to send the 2011 ACL winners through to the last 16.
Al Ahli had been unbeaten and on top of the group at the start of play but they slipped to third and failed to advance.
Twelve clubs have qualified for the second stage, with the remaining four spots up for grabs in the last of the preliminary matches on Wednesday.