After completing aggregate victories in Wednesday’s semi-final second legs of the AFC Champions League, Guangzhou Evergrande and FC Seoul sealed their places in the final.
The Chinese side replicated the form shown in their dominant first-leg victory over Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol with an emphatic win, while the Korean Republic outfit claimed a vital draw with Esteghlal in Iran.
This is the first time that either team – reigning champions of their respective national leagues – have reached the AFC Champions League final which, having been settled with a single match for the last four years, will this year be decided over two legs. As well as being crowned champions of Asia, the winners will also go on to represent their continent at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013.
Wednesday 2 October 2013
Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Esteghlal 2-2 FC Seoul
Esteghlal 2-2 FC Seoul
Going into the game with a two-goal deficit and the suspension of key midfielders Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian, Esteghlal seemed poorly positioned to mount a comeback in the return leg at the Azadi Stadium.
Despite numerous chances being created by a forward line led by captain Farhad Majidi, the Iranian champions found themselves 1-0 down at half-time to a Ha Dae-Sung goal. However, the home side got back on terms when Trinidad and Tobago’s Jlloyd Samuel headed home Pejman Nouri’s corner. Then, with fifteen minutes to go, Mohammad Ghazi gave Esteghlal the lead, only to see his side’s hopes of qualification dashed five minutes later as Kim Jin-Kyu converted a penalty awarded for Hanif Omranzadeh’s foul on Cha Du-Ri.
The other encounter
In the other half of the draw, Guangzhou Evergrande built on their first-leg momentum with a crushing 4-0 victory over Kashiwa Reysol. After creating several early opportunities, the Chinese side opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Brazilian Elkeson fired home from a Dario Conca corner. Conca then followed up with a goal of his own at the start of the second half, heading in Rong Hao’s cross.
With Guangzhou content to protect their two-goal lead, Muriqui added a third in the 79th minute with a powerful strike, before notching his side’s fourth goal late on. The brace took his haul to 13 goals in 12 matches in this season’s Champions League. As top scorer in the competition, the Brazilian striker now stands five clear of second-placed Dario Conca, his Argentinian team-mate.
Having competed in Europe for more than ten years, during which time he represented Celtic in the UEFA Champions League, Korea Republic right-back Cha Du-Ri has finally returned to his homeland. After playing every minute in FC Seoul’s quarter and semi-final ties, the 33-year-old is now hoping to draw on his vast experience to lead the club to its first continental title.
6 - The number of consecutive wins by Guangzhou Evergrande in knockout matches en route to the final. In contrast, FC Seoul have recorded three consecutive home wins alongside three away draws.
What they said
“We played an attacking game and moved the ball around well. Our dominance in the match just shows our potential. But now we must concentrate on our national league before we can think about the continental title,” Guangzhou Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi, who is aiming to become the first coach to win the UEFA and the AFC Champions League.