Zeng Cheng (C),goalkeeper of Guangzhou Evergrande tries to save the ball during the AFC Champinos League semifinal against Kashiwa Reysol in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, Oct. 2, 2013. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)
Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande became the first Chinese club to reach the final of AFC Champions league after breezing past Kashiwa Reysol 4-0 in Wednesday's semifinal second leg.
The Chinese champions, coached by World Cup-winning manager Lippi, who had won 4-1 in Japan, completed a comfortable 8-1 agGREgate win in their top four clash. The deep-pocketed Guangzhou have won all of their six knock-out matches and scored formidable 20 goals en route to the final.
"We have a compact squad and played well in both legs," said Lippi after the match. "Reaching the final is very positive for us, we will put all our effort to win the final."
Lippi' side are gunning to end a 23-year continental drought for Chinese clubs dating back to Liaoning's 1990 triumph in the Asian Club Championships, the Champions League's predecessor, when they play the final against the winner between FC Seoul and Esteghlal, who will clash in the second leg late Wednesday.
Guangzhou were toppled by Saudi Arabia's two-time winners Al Ittihad a year ago but they have returned stronger in their full season under Lippi.
At a noisy Tianhe sports Center packed with 50,000 spectators, Guangzhou dominated possession in the first half. Elkeson and Huang Bowen both had chances in the opening minutes but didn't score.
Elkeson, with 22 goals in domestic appearances, powered home for his team three times in the first half, but only the second one was recognized as the other two was canceled by the referee.
In the 15th minute, Elkeson headed home after receiving a cross from Gao Lin, but the goal was canceled as Elkeson fouled beforehand. However, two minutes later, the sparkling Brazilian forward fired a shot from close range in a corner sent in by Huang and put Guangzhou 1-0 ahead.
Guangzhou continued the attacking momentum. In the 19th minute, defender Zhang Linpeng thumped in his shot from distance into the post. In the 30 minutes, Elkeson was also picked out by Muriqui with a high one that he volleyed the ball into the net, however the goal was denied again as Elkeson knocked the goalkeeper at first.
With a 1-0 lead, Guangzhou slowed their speed, while Kashiwa side spared no effort to attack. In the second half, the Japanese had a better opening by gaining two corners, but their players were off-key in front of goal.
It was Guangzhou who rubbed salt into the wound. In the 56th minute, Conca put Guangzhou 2-0 up by powering home a header. In the closing period, Muriqui scored two times in the 79 and 87 minute to take his tournament tally to a record 13 goals.
Kashiwa's coach Takuya Odagiri admitted the result was acceptable. "We have done our best and never give up in the match, but our opponent are so too strong to beat," he said.