Guangzhou Evergrande keep ACL 2019 dream alive after eliminating champions Kashima

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Guangzhou Evergrande remain on course for a third AFC Champions League crown after booting out defending champions Kashima Antlers on Wednesday following a 1-1 draw in the second leg of the quarter-finals.

After a 0-0 draw in the first leg, Evergrande headed into the tie at the Kashima Soccer Stadium knowing that a goal would put them firmly in the driver’s seat as their opponents had failed to grab an away goal of their own three weeks earlier.

Both teams made a nervy start to the contest but it was the Chinese Super League giants who eventually settled first and they duly took the lead five minutes before halftime.

AFC Champions League 2019: Kashima Antlers 0-1 Guangzhou Evergrande (Talisca 40′)

A corner was swung in by Huang Bowen and with Kashima goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae opting to come off his line, Anderson Talisca did well to get enough distance from Koki Machida and meet the delivery with a firm header in at the near post.

But, six minutes into the second half, the hosts equalised on the night after Evergrande lost possession near the halfway line and the ball was worked to Leo Silva, who patiently waited for the right opening before curling away a shot that ricocheted off a fortunate Serginho past a wrong-footed Zeng Cheng.

AFC Champions League 2019: Kashima Antlers 1-1 Guangzhou Evergrande (Serginho 51′)

Buoyed at getting back into the contest, Kashima began to push forward with increasing intent and created a fair share of opportunities, only to find opposition goalkeeper Zeng Cheng in imperious form.

And, in the fourth minute of injury-time, it looked as though they were going to win it and secure their place in the semi-finals after Leo Silva wriggled his way free inside the six-yard box and stroked a shot past Zeng, but Gao Zhunyi made a stunning match-saving block to seal Evergrande’s progress into the last four.

KASHIMA ANTLERS: Kwoun Sun-tae, Kei Koizumi, Jung Seung-hyun, Tomoya Inukai, Koki Machida, Serginho, Leo Silva, Ryota Nagaki (Kazuma Yamaguchi 81’), Shintaro Nago (Yuki Soma 69’), Sho Ito (Ayase Ueda 71’), Shoma Doi.

GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE: Zeng Cheng, Deng Hanwen, Feng Xiaoting, Park Ji-soo, Gao Zhunyi, Huang Bowen (Xu Xin 65’), Zheng Zhi, Yang Liyu (Mei Fang 88’), Anderson Talisca (Gao Lin 79’), Paulinho, Elkeson.