Football: Evergrande among four former champions in ACL quarters
- Updated: May 28, 2015
May 28, 2015: Former winners Guangzhou Evergrande, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Gamba Osaka and Al Hilal all won this week to qualify for the AFC Champions League quarter-finals, where they will join Kashiwa Reysol, Lekhwiya, Al Ahli and Iranian debutants Naft Tehran.
Guangzhou Evergrande beat Seongnam FC 2-0 at home on Wednesday to record a 3-2 aggregate victory in the round of 16, while Jeonbuk, Gamba and Al Hilal also recorded victories to win their respective ties ahead of the June 18 draw in Kuala Lumpur.
Evergrande coach Fabio Cannavaro was delighted after a brace from Brazilian forward Ricardo Goulart secured a home win and a fourth consecutive appearance in the quarter-final stage for the Chinese champions.
“Two years ago we were the Asian champions and we have rich experiences from then,” said the 2006 World Cup-winning captain. “Despite the personnel change since then, what made us really strong is still there, the spirit of the team, so in difficult times we can all upon that spirit and unity and still be the best team in China.”
Japanese treble winners Gamba secured a return to the quarter-finals for the first time since their 2008 victory after Wednesday’s 3-2 win over 2013 finalists FC Seoul of Korea secured a 6-3 aggregate victory.
Jeonbuk returned to the last eight for the first time since 2011 after the 2006 winners beat Beijing Guoan 1-0 to seal a 2-1 aggregate win. Brazilian substitute Edu’s strike with 18 minutes remaining at Workers’ Stadium proved enough for the K-League Classic champions after a 1-1 draw last week at Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
Kashiwa, the 2013 semi-finalists, claimed their place in the last eight through Yusuke Kobayashi’s crucial second-half strike, which secured an away goals success over Suwon Samsung despite losing Tuesday’s second leg 2-1 at home.
In the west
Naft achieved a historic first appearance in the last eight after Leandro Padovani’s goal at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah was enough to see the Iranian side through on away goals despite losing 2-1 against Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Padovani’s all-important opener left Al Ahli needing a minimum of three goals to progress, and even Omar Al Soma’s double was not enough for the home side.
Naft coach Alireza Mansourian said: “I want to congratulate my players for the great achievement as we defeated a strong team who didn’t lose any matches in the group stage and their first defeat in the competition was against us in the first leg.
“We came to Saudi Arabia with great ambition as we wanted to qualify for the next round. We planned to score an early goal which would affect our opponents and we successfully scored an important goal.”
In Qatar, substitute Ismail Mohamad came off the bench to score seven minutes from time as 10-man Lekhwiya secured a 2-2 draw with local rivals Al Sadd on Tuesday that was enough to secure a second quarter-final appearance after sealing a 4-3 aggregate win for the league champions.
Al Hilal, last year’s runners-up, cruised into the last eight with a 3-0 win over Iran’s Persepolis, with goals from Yousef Al Salem, Mohammed Shalhoub and Abdulaziz Al Dawsari securing a 3-1 aggregate win.
For more information, visit: www.the-afc.com/en/tournaments/clubs/afc-champions-league
Source: WSG (www.wsgworld.com); Editing by SportAsia