K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors came back to thump Chinese League winners Guangzhou Evergrande 3-1 in Guangzhou Tuesday night, topping Group H with a three-game winning streak.
Guangzhou Evergrande lost to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-3 in Guangzhou Tuesday night. [Sina.com]
"We knew it would be a match of revenge for us," said Jeonbuk coach Lee Heung-Sil. "We played a beautiful comeback game today and I am very happy."
But they could hardly imagine they were able to make it in the last minutes, with one man short.
"Yes, we were struggling in the last 30 minutes, but we grasped the only two chances, and we won. I believe we deserve the victory," Lee said.
While Jeonbuk had to rely on other results to be able to advance to the last 16, AFC Champions League debutants Guangzhou Evergrande knew a third three points would be enough to secure them a place in the final 16 following their 3-1 home win over Kashiwa two weeks ago.
Guangzhou set the tone as Dario Conca scored a penalty in the 10th minute after wing back Zhang Linpeng was tackled inside the visitors' box. The home side kept pressure as Brazilian winger Muriqui frequently broke through Jeonbuk's right wing, while the South Korean side maintained a simple strategy and finally found the equalizer through midfielder Lee Sung-Hyun in the 43rd minute.
Guangzhou could not accept a draw with over 40,000 fans cheering. They replaced Zhao Xuri and Conca with Feng Junyan and Jiang Ning to increase speed. With Muriqui and Jiang Ning breaking through wings, Jeonbuk captain Cho Sung-Hwan received his second yellow card and made the South Korean outfit one man short in the final half an hour.
The home side were so close to the victory but they narrowly missed two one-on-ones. Jeonbuk's forward Lee Dong-Gook scored an easy goal in a counter-strike and added a penalty in injury time.
"We didn't grasp the chances. If we had, we could have won the match. But this is football," said Guangzhou coach Lee Jang-Soo.
"It is all my fault. I must say sorry to our fans, and to my players, who gave all to this match."
The road ahead for the 56-year-old South Korean is rocky as he has been rumored to be replaced by Italian coach Marcello Lippi.
"We still have chance to qualify, if we beat Buriram," he said.
The Thai champions suffered a bitter 1-0 loss to Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol, only to find themselves in the bottom of the table after a highlighted start. The final fixture between them and Guangzhou in Thailand will be vital for both sides.
Tianjin Teda lost their final slender chance after losing 5-1 to Australia's Central Coast Mariners, in Group G, leaving Guangzhou the only hope for the Chinese club to reach the final 16 in the AFC Champions League.