Sanfrecce Hiroshima claimed third place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015 after coming from behind in the all-Asian clash with Guangzhou Evergrande in Yokohama.
A brace from Douglas in the 70th and 83rd minutes changed the complexion of the game as Hajime Moriyasu’s substitutes combined to great effect to turn the game around.
It was the AFC champions who took the lead with the game’s first chance. Li Xuepeng’s cross from the right was headed towards goal by Elkeson, with Takuyo Hayashi parrying the shot away. The ball went straight into the path of Lin Gao whose shot fell to Paulinho. The former Tottenham Hotspur man did well to direct the shot home with his head.
A good piece of individual skill from Mihael Mikic almost drew his side level. The Croatian cut inside from the right before unleashing a left-footed drive which curled away from Li Shuai and just over the bar. Three minutes later Mikic crossed for Hisato Sato whose diving header forced a good save from Li in the Guangzhou goal.
Guangzhou went close to doubling their advantage when Elkeson’s shot took a deflection off Hiromi Mizumoto and went out for a corner. Sanfrecce then went close twice within the space of a minute with Kohei Shimizu supplying Sato on both occasions. First, a diving header brought a great save from Li – and then his second went agonisingly wide.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side hit the woodwork when Li Xuepeng’s shot took a deflection and rebounded off the base of the post.
Sanfrecce had a golden opportunity to equalise just before half-time when Takuya Marutani’s goalbound effort was cleared off the line by Mei Fang who was in the right place at the right time.
The second half began with half chances for Goulart and Sato for their respective sides, but the game only burst back into life with 20 minutes to go.
With the game seemingly drifting to its conclusion, a lapse in concentration cost Guangzhou dearly. Mizumoto missed Yusuke Chajima’s corner from the left at the near post which allowed Douglas to sneak in unnoticed and equalise.
After the goal, it was all Sanfrecce. Chajima went agonisingly close to giving the J.League champions the lead after some great work by Yoshifumi Kashiwa. He showed superb balance to keep the ball in play and put a delivery into the box. It was met by Chajima who hit a cross-come-shot into the turf which spun just beyond the upright.
With eight minutes to go, Sanfrecce got the match-winner. Kashiwa’s cross from the right was headed against the bar by Asano and Douglas was on hand to nod home the rebound from close range.
Takuma Asano could have put the game beyond doubt as the Japanese side broke quickly, but missed the target. However, the miss was uncostly as the final whistle blew soon afterwards to put the side from the host country on the podium.