Guangzhou, FC Seoul seize the initiative
© AFP

Guangzhou Evergrande and FC Seoul will take commanding cushions into the second legs of their AFC Champions League semi-finals after impressive results away to Kashiwa Reysol and at home to Esteghlal respectively.

Marcello Lippi’s team came from behind to record an emphatic 4-1 victory in Japan, while Choi Yong-Soo’s charges won 2-0 in the South Korean capital.

Results:
25 September
Kashiwa Reysol 1-4 Guangzhou Evergrande
FC Seoul 2-0 Esteghlal

The match
Kashiwa Reysol 1-4 Guangzhou Evergrande

Guangzhou took four points from a possible six off Kashiwa in the group stage in 2012, and the Chinese champions were confident of getting another result given that their hosts were without injured playmaker Leandro Domingues and suspended captain Hidekazu Otani. Their hopes were diminished within ten minutes, however, when Jorge Wagner whipped in a free-kick which Cleo – ironically on loan at Kashiwa from Guangzhou – deflected home.

Evergrande could have drawn level when Muriqui saw his looping shot denied by the upright, before Reysol’s Junya Tanaka forced Zeng Cheng into a fine save before half-time.

Guangzhou, as expected, pressed hard after the interval and their efforts paid off on the stroke of the hour, when Muriqui unleashed an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net. The goal spurred the visitors into action, with Conca putting Guangzhou ahead with a fizzing 20-yard drive and Kim Chang-Soo turning the ball into his own net under pressure from Elkeson to make it 3-1.

Guangzhou dominated the remainder of play, with Muriqui rounding off the resounding comeback victory with a stoppage-time strike.

The other attraction
An even game was anticipated in the other semi-final, but FC Seoul controller the game from the outset, though their guests did look dangerous on the counter-attack.

The South Koreans’ breakthrough came five minutes before the break, when a four-man move initiated by Dejan Damjanovic ended up with the Montenegro forward latching on to a clearance to head the ball home. Mauricio Molina missed the chance to double the lead before the interval when, with the goal at his mercy, he agonisingly shot over. FC Seoul did nevertheless make it 2-0 shortly after the restart, with defender Yo-Hanko running on to a fine cross and slotting home.

The player
Having managed a brace as Guangzhou outmuscled Kashiwa 3-1 in their previous meeting last year, Muriqui emulated the feat this time around, scoring the equaliser before putting the tie further out of the Japanese side’s reach late on.

The stat
10 – The loss to Guangzhou snapped Kashiwa’s ten-match unbeaten record in this campaign, having previously won six and drawn four.

What they said
Dario Conca, Guangzhou playmaker: "Kashiwa are a strong team, they caused a series of problems for us today. They have good players and we can't afford to take them lightly in the return match at home.”