Guangzhou Evergrande became the first Chinese football club to win the AFC Champions League on Saturday evening as Marcello Lippi’s side secured the title on the away goals ruling after a 1-1 draw at Tianhe Stadium saw the Chinese Super League champions draw 3-3 over the two legs of the final with Korea Republic’s FC Seoul.
Brazilian striker Elkeson gave Guangzhou the lead in the 58th minute with his sixth goal in six AFC Champions League games, only for Dejan Damjanovic to level the scores four minutes later to crank up the tension at the Tianhe Stadium.
But Choi Yong-soo’s side could not find their way through the home defence a second time to claim the goal needed to keep the trophy in Korean hands and Guangzhou became the first Chinese side since Liaoning in 1990 to be crowned Asian club champions.
Guangzhou will now represent the Asian Football Confederation at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco next month having added the AFC Champions League to the Chinese Super League title they retained at the end of October.
The Chinese side were deserved winners having dominated throughout with FC Seoul unable to register a first half chance of note as the home team controlled the tempo during the majority of the opening period.
Zhao Xuri, brought into the team at the expense of Gao Lin, headed Sun Xiang’s cross from the left over the bar in the 11th minute after an impressive build-up by the home side and, five minutes later, Dario Conca shot on the turn clipped the base of the post.
Lippi’s team dominated possession, forcing the Koreans to sit deep as Guangzhou created – and spurned – and increasing number of chances. Conca’s shot from long range was just wide while Kim Yong-dae dropped to his right to push Elkeson’s effort away for a corner.
Elkeson’s attempt at a scissor kick also failed to hit the target in the 27th minute while Zhang Linpeng, who delivered the cross for the Brazilian’s effort, was booked six minutes later for an over-exuberant challenge.
Zhang was joined in the book on the stroke of halftime by FC Seoul captain Ha Dae-sung, who was sanctioned for persistent fouling, while Elkeson had earlier spurned an opening when he headed straight at Kim following Sun’s deflected cross.
Five minutes into the second half, Muriqui forced Kim into a reflect save with his feet after being put through on goal by Huang Bowen while Huang’s shot from range less than a minute later was straight at the visiting keeper.
Seven minutes later, though, Guangzhou finally secured the advantage their dominance deserved; Muriqui slipped the ball through the middle of the Seoul defence and Elkeson’s deft first touch put him in position to stroke the ball beyond Kim and into the bottom corner.
The home side’s lead lasted just four minutes when Sergio Escudero held off the Guangzhou defence before releasing Damjanovic who, having barely seen sight of goal all game, finished with conviction to Zeng Cheng’s right to put the game in the balance once more.
Both sides pushed for a second in the final half hour of the game but, despite increasingly frantic action, neither goalkeeper was troubled and Guangzhou held on to send the crowd of over 42,000 fans delirious.