Guangzhou Evergrande win shootout to make ACL last 8

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 26, 2019
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Paulinho (R) of Guangzhou Evergrande FC competes during the AFC Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Shandong Luneng FC and Guangzhou Evergrande FC in Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province, June 25, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhu Zheng)

Guangzhou Evergrande FC edged into the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League on Tuesday when Zhong Yihao scored in the first sudden-death round of a penalty shootout to take the two-time champions into the last eight at the expense of Shandong Luneng FC.

Zhong's successful spot-kick came after Cui Peng had seen his effort saved by goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo and earned Guangzhou a 6-5 shootout win after the two-legged Round of 16 tie had ended in a 4-4 aggregate draw at the completion of extra time, with Shandong's dramatic 3-2 second leg win ultimately in vain.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg, Guangzhou doubled their advantage less than 13 minutes into the return clash at the Jinan Olympic Sports Center when Paulinho bundled the ball home after reacting quickest as Yang Liyu's shot came back off the upright.

Shandong were creating little of note despite pressing forward and launching high balls into the Evergrande penalty area, with Wang Tong firing well off target before Song Wenje saw his attempt at goal bravely blocked by Paulinho. 

Coach Li Xiaopeng introduced Zhou Haibin early in the second half as Shandong were forced to press forward to find a way back into the tie and the introduction of the former Tianjin Teda midfielder proved pivotal.

The 33-year-old gave Shandong hope when he nodded home from close range after Brazilian central defender Gil had risen highest to head Hao Junmin's corner towards the far post seconds after Graziano Pelle had seen his attempt pushed over the bar by Liu Dianzuo. 

Eight minutes later, Shandong were ahead on the night and level on aggregate thanks to a flash of brilliance from Fellaini, who controlled Jin Jingdao's long ball into the box on his chest while holding off the attentions of Feng Xiaoting before pivoting to drive his shot low beyond Liu Dianzuo .

Liu Dianzuo was called into action once more seven minutes from time when he pushed Liu Junshuai's header to safety as Shandong continued to force Guangzhou on the defensive but, with neither side able to strike again, the game went into extra-time.

Just three minutes into the first added period Liu Junshuai put Shandong further in front – and ahead on aggregate for the first time in the tie – when he tapped home from close range after more uncertainty within the Guangzhou defence.

But Paulinho stepped up again to score, the Brazilian this time smashing a brilliant free kick from 25 yards past Wang Dalei and into the top corner two minutes before the extra-time interval. 

With the away goals rule not counting for goals scored in extra-time, penalties loomed, but only after Wang Dalei made a point blank save from Gao Lin two minutes from time and Tyias Browning sent his follow-up over the bar.

While Wang's heroics kept Shandong in the game, it was Guangzhou goalkeeper Liu who made the all-important first save of the shootout when he denied Cui in the sixth round, leaving Zhong to hit the winner that takes Cannavaro's side through.

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