Guangzhou advance to semi-finals

Guangzhou Evergrande advanced to the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday courtesy of a 4-2 aggregate win over Kashiwa Reysol.

Luis Felipe Scolari's side went into the second leg at the Tianhe Stadium with a 3-1 lead after a victory in Japan at the end of last month.

But Kashiwa halved the deficit and took the lead when Cristiano da Silva found the back of the net with a fine header after being played in by Akimi Barada's free-kick.

The visitors' resurgence was short-lived though, as Huang Bowen restored the Chinese giants' two-goal cushion on the half-hour mark with a stunning volley.

The score remained unchanged for the remainder of the match as Guangzhou became the first team to book their spot in the last four, where they will face the winner of Wednesday's match between Japan’s Gamba Osaka and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from South Korea.

Since Scolari's side came into the match with a significant advantage having scored three away goals last time out, the Brazilian made just one change to his side, with Elkeson replacing Gao Lin as the focal point of the attack.

Kashiwa coach Tatsuma Yoshida, on the other hand, made two changes from the first leg defeat, with Yuta Nakayama and Masato Fujita replaced by regular captain Hidekazu Otani and Ryosuke Yamanaka.

Yoshida's side made the perfect start to the match after Cristiano's stunning header left Zeng Cheng in the Guangzhou helpless, after Barada's accurate set-piece from the edge of the area caught out the home defense.

Fifteen minutes later the hosts levelled matters on the night in spectacular fashion, after Zheng Zhi’s cross found Huang on the edge of the penalty area, from where he leathered a volley into the top corner to leave Kashiwa goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno helpless.

Seven minutes after the break, Kashiwa nearly halved their deficit once more when Yusuke Kobayashi was found in a bit of space on the edge of the six yard box, only to be crowded out by Zheng and defender Zhang Linpeng.

Shortly after, Cristiano went close with another header after he was left on mark in the penalty area, a miss that resulted in Kashiwa coach Yoshida introduced striker Ederson at the expense of midfielder Yusuke Kobayashi.

Despite the more attacking nature of the on-field XI, Kashiwa was unable to make much of an impression in the latter stages of the second half and nearly found themselves three goals down in the tie 10 minutes from full-time when Guangzhou substitute Yu Hanchao forced Sugeno into a sprawling save.

In the closing stages of the match, Cristiano once again went close with a long-range effort that was pushed around the post, as Kashiwa were unable to find a way back into the contest.

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