Fellaini fires Shandong Luneng into ACL knockouts

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 9, 2019
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Wang Dalei (R) of Shandong Luneng FC vies with Ko Kyungmin (L) of Gyeongnam FC during the group E match between China's Shandong Luneng FC and South Korea's Gyeongnam FC at the 2019 AFC Champions League in Jinan,east China's Shandong Province, May 8, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhu Zheng)

Marouane Fellaini's late header sealed a come-from-behind 2-1 win for Shandong Luneng over Gyeongnam FC on Wednesday that earned the Chinese Super League side a place in the knockout rounds of the 2019 AFC Champions League.

The former Manchester United midfielder headed home from close range three minutes from time to complete an impressive second half performance by Li Xiaopeng's side, who trailed at the break thanks to Kim Seung-jun's opener.

But a stunning Hao Junmin free-kick in the 64th minute pulled Shandong level before Fellaini claimed the goal that moves his team on to 11 points and a guaranteed top two finish in the standings.

Shandong claimed the win despite missing the services of Graziano Pelle, who scored six times in the first four rounds of the competition but started on the bench after picking up an injury during his side's 2-0 win over Hebei CFFC in the Chinese Super League on Saturday.

The absence of the former Italy international blunted the home side's attack in the opening 45 minutes but Gyeongnam rarely looked capable of capitalising on their opponents' lack of bite up front. 

As a result, a relatively uneventful first half looked to be fizzling to a conclusion when Gyeongnam took the lead with just three minutes remaining.

The Koreans had been restricted to a header from Woo Ju-sung that was just off target earlier in the half after the Shandong defence failed to clear a high, aimless ball into the centre, but as time ticked down they finally broke through.

Negueba created enough room for himself to send in a cross that found the head of Kim Hyo-gi and his cushioned lay-off fell into the path of Kim Seung-jun, whose side-foot volley from close range gave Wang Dalei little chance. 

Hao, however, pulled Shandong level with his perfectly struck curling free-kick from 25 yards and the game looked destined to end in a draw as the final minutes counted down.

But the powering figure of Fellaini proved to be decisive in the dying minutes as the ex-Belgium international fed the ball out wide to Zhang Chi before heading in the return pass from six yards out to secure the win and a place in the next phase for Li and his side.

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