Cerezo held by Evergrande; Shenhua, Sydney play out thriller

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Cerezo Osaka were denied a second consecutive win in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Guangzhou Evergrande.

Despite coming up against more-illustrious opponents – who have been champions of Asia twice in the last five seasons – it was Cerezo who enjoyed the better of proceedings at the Yanmar Stadium Nagai.

Although manager Yoon Jong-hwan was without experienced playmaker Hiroshi Kiyotake and opted to start star duo Yoichiro Kakitani and Kenyu Sugimoto on the bench, his charges were the more adventurous side and carved out the more-dangerous opportunities.

Kakitani and Sugimoto were eventually brought on and both gave the Evergrande defence plenty of problems with Cerezo even having two second-half goals disallowed.

Nonetheless, they were just unable to find the back of the net and had to settle for a share of the spoils, which keeps them top of Group G.

Meanwhile, Jeju United got their first points of the campaign as they beat Buriram United 2-0, courtesy of first-half strikes by Lee Chang-min and Magno Cruz.

Over in Group H, Shanghai Shenhua and Sydney FC shared the spoils in a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Hongkou Football Stadium.

Obafemi Martins opened the scoring for the Chinese hosts in the 26th minute when he cleverly flicked home Li Yunqiu’s right-wing cross inside the six-yard box.

Just two minutes later, however, Sydney equalised when Luke Wilkshire netted on the rebound from an acute angle, after opposition keeper Li Shuai could only parry Bobo’s initial header.

The visitors then edged ahead four minutes after the half-hour mark as Milos Ninkovic slipped a lovely through-pass to Alex Brosque, who held off a challenge before lashing his shot into the roof of the net.

But it was then Shenhua’s turn to pull level when they netted what proved to be final goal of the game six minutes before halftime; Fredy Guarin reacting quickly after Andrew Redmayne had punched clear to the edge of the box and producing a brilliant side-footed volley into the unguarded goal.

Finally, the other match in Group H saw Kashima Antlers move top with an impressive 2-1 triumph over Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

The decision to introduce Mu Kanazaki into the Kashima starting XI proved to be a masterstroke as he put them ahead after eight minutes, coolly finishing past No Dong-geon after Yuma Suzuki and Yasushi Endo linked up well to carve out an opening.

Dejan Damjanovic then spurned a great chance to equalise in the 25th minute when his tame penalty was saved by Kwoun Sun-tae.

Kanazaki was on target once more a minute before the hour mark, bundling the ball home from two yards out after Suzuki had nodded Endo’s floated pass towards goal.

Suwon did pull one back a minute from time when Cristovam broke free inside the area to slot through the legs of Kwoun, although the Antlers were able to hold out for maximum points.