History was made in Wednesday's 2013 AFC Champions League quarter-final second legs, with a quartet of teams booking their maiden semi-final appearances.
In the early match, a hard-fought solitary-goal home win against Al Ahli saw FC Seoul progress by 2-1 on aggregate and set up their first-ever last-four meeting with Esteghlal, who registered a second win against Buriram United.
Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou, meanwhile, thrashed Lekhwiya 4-1 to advance 6-1 on aggregate. Awaiting them in the semi-finals are Kashiwa Reysol, who bravely held hosts Al Shabab to a 2-2 draw. The result, coupled with the first-leg 1-1 tie, saw the Japanese side eliminate the Saudi champions on away goals to set up an all-East Asian affair with Guangzhou.
Lekwiya 1-4 Guangzhou Evergrande (1-6)
Al Shabab 2-2 Kashiwa Reysol (3-3)
Buriram United 1-2 Esteghlal (1-3)
FC Seoul 1-0 Al Ahli (2-1)
Lekhwiya 1-4 Guangzhou Evergrande
In-form Guangzhou showed their hosts no mercy, running out comfortable winners to advance 6-1 on aggregate. Entering the game with a two-goal deficit, Lekhwiya knew they had to make progress and came out like a runaway train. The anxious hosts produced five shots in the opening stages, with Ismaeel Mohammad the closest to opening the scoring with a stinging shot.
Having weathered the early onslaught, however, Guangzhou were suddenly two goals up courtesy of a pair of sublimely-taken set-pieces. Dario Conca broke the deadlock with an inswinging free-kick on 14 minutes, before Elkeson doubled the lead with an unstoppable drive two minutes later. With the hosts stunned, Muriqui made it 3-0 on the half-hour mark with his ninth goal of the campaign.
Nam Taehee pulled one back for Lekhwiya after the restart when his shot was deflected home. But the visitors restored the five-goal aggregate lead through Elkeson, who sealed the matchday’s biggest win with his second.
The other attractions
In what proved to be a hard contested match between FC Seoul and Al Ahli, both sides carved out a series of chances but lacked the necessary accuracy or luck to make them count. Mustafa Al Bassas flashed a shot just wide, before Cha Duri saw his looping header come off the cross bar as the two sides finished the first half goalless. With so much at stake, the tempo was upped after the restart, with the ball flowing from end to end. The visitors came close when Taiseer Al Jassam saw his rasping drive saved, but the hosts settled the contest with Dejan Damjanovic latching onto Ha Daesung's inch-perfect pass a minute from time.
Midfielder Andranik Teymourian set up the equaliser and scored the match-winner as Esteghlal came from behind to win 2-1 at Buriram United and thus go through by an aggregate 3-1. Aware of their one-goal deficit, the Thai hosts had begun aggressively. Their efforts paid off seven minutes from break, Osmar Barba heading Buriram ahead and drew the aggregate scoreline level. Esteghlal, though, spurred into life after the interval. Hanif Omranzadeh leveled off Teymourian's pass on 53 minutes, before the provider turned scorer by striking the match-winner in stoppage-time.
In the matchday's last game, Al Shabab opened well when Naif Hazazi opened the scoring after just ten minutes. The Saudi international out-jumped the entire Kashiwa defensive line to plant a powerful header into the back of the net. The Riyadh side were on target again three minutes later, only to see Kwak Taehwi put through his own net to gift the Japanese visitors a much-needed equaliser. The balance was, however, tipped in the visitors' favour when Naoya Kondo headed home on 73 minutes. Although the scoreline was again levelled when Hassan Muath equalised with a late strike, Kashiwa went through courtesy of one more away goal.
Having grabbed a previous away goal in the 1-1 first-leg draw against Al Ahli, Dejan Damjanovic again rose to the occasion by scoring the match-winning goal. Hailed by Choi Yongsoo as a "great finisher" in a pre-match interview with FIFA.com, the Montenegro international proved the manager just right.
3-East Asians set the tone in the quarter-finals, with FC Seoul, Kashiwa and Guangzhou storming into the last four.
What they said
"(Being a goal down), in the dressing room at half-time, I didn’t speak about technical matters. I told the players you are Iranian and we have to show our honour as Iranians. The players played very well and as I wanted as they showed the spirit," Esteghlal coach Amir Ghalenoei