AFC Champions League 2019: Evergrande edge Shandong to put one foot in quarters

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Two-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande moved one step closer to the quarter-finals of AFC Champions League 2019 after claiming a 2-1 first-leg win over Shandong Luneng in the Round of 16.

In a keenly-contested encounter at the Tianhe Stadium between two powerhouses of the Chinese Super League, it was Evergrande who drew first blood in the 35th minute.

Paulinho was at the heart of it all as he led the charge and spread the ball out right to Yang Liyu, before making a darting run to receive the return pass and dig a cross out from the byline.

Having earlier missed a complete sitter, Wei Shihao made amends as he capitalised after Shandong goalkeeper Wang Dalei flapped at the delivery, pouncing on the loose ball and keeping his cool to poke home.

But, six minutes after the hour mark, the visitors drew level when a high ball into the box from the left was brought down and held up well by Marouane Fellaini before being fed to Zhang Chi, who unleashed a spectacular effort into the far corner that had Liu Dianzuo beaten all ends up.

Nonetheless, just when it looked as though a draw was on the cards, a stroke of luck handed Evergrande the victory although Wang will again have to shoulder some of the blame.

Finding space down the right, Yang’s cross took a deflection of Zheng Zheng and Wang – having gambled and left his near post uncovered – could not recover in time to prevent his left-back from scoring an inadvertent own-goal, which was ultimately the deciding factor in an intriguing first leg.

Still, with an away goal in their possession, Shandong still have reason to be optimistic of overturning the deficit when they host Evergrande in next Tuesday’s second leg at the Jinan Olympic Sports Center Stadium.

GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE: Liu Dianzuo, Zhang Linpeng, Tyias Browning, Park Ji-soo, Gao Zhunyi, Huang Bowen, Zheng Zhi (Zhang Xiuwei 78’), Yang Liyu (He Chao 84’), Paulinho, Li Xuepeng (Zhong Yihao 61’), Wei Shihao.

SHANDONG LUNENG: Wang Dalei, Wang Tong, Dai Lin, Gil, Zheng Zheng, Hao Junmin, Marouane Fellaini, Zhang Chi (Liu Junshuai 88’), Song Wenjie (Zhou Haibin 64’), Wu Xinghan (Jin Jingdao 46’), Graziano Pelle.