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Guangzhou Evergrande closes in on spot in Asian final

Updated: 2013-09-26 09:03

Guangzhou Evergrande closes in on spot in Asian final

Muriqui of Guangzhou Evergrande FC celebrates after scoring against Kashiwa Reysol during their semifinal soccer match of AFC champions league at Hitachi Kashiwa stadium in Kashiwa, Chiba prefecture, Japan, Sept 25, 2013. [Photo/CFP]

KASHIWA, Japan - Guangzhou Evergrande took a step toward a place in the Asian Champions League final by coming from a goal down to beat Japanese club Kashiwa Reysol 4-1 in the first leg of AFC semifinals at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium Wednesday.

Big-spending Guangzhou fell behind when Jorge Wagner scored in the 10th minute for Reysol, who went into the match as the only unbeaten team in Asia's premier club competition.

Wagner's curling freekick appeared to beat everyone on its way into the net although Reysol's Brazilian striker Cleo, who is on a season-long loan from Guangzhou, may have got a touch given his celebrations as the Japanese side took the lead.

But Marcello Lippi's in-form team, who top the Chinese Super League by 11 points and have their eyes set on winning the treble this year, including the FA Cup, rallied back and could have leveled the game in the 23rd minute when Muriqui hammered his shot against the woodwork with only the target to hit.

Muriqui's double, a goal each from Guangzhou's other foreign players Dario Conca and Elkeson, and an own-goal by Kim Chang-soo put the CSL champion in control ahead of the second leg of the semifinals in Guangzhou on Oct 2.

The winner will face either FC Seoul or Iranian club Esteghlal in the final. FC Seoul beat Esteghlal 2-0 in the first leg.

Evergrande is the first Chinese team in the semifinals since Shenzhen Jianlibao made it that far in 2005 and the first to reach the final of the competition since Dalian Wanda in 1998.

Both teams created chances in an open, fast-paced game and the visitors came close several times before equalizing in the 56th minute after a defensive lapse from Naoya Kondo.

His poor acrobatic clearance in the area fell at the feet of Muriqui who lashed a left-foot strike into the roof of the net.

Conca gave Guangzhou the lead 10 minutes later when the Argentine's brilliant effort from outside of the box curled away from the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno straight from a goal-line clearance at the other end.

Elkeson, who earlier missed an easy chance with only the keeper to beat, made amends when he turned in a corner from Conca at the near post in the 82nd minute, while Muriqui rounded the keeper in stoppage time to increase the margin.

Lippi said that his men performed well despite going one-nil down so early on.

"We picked ourselves up and played some good football. We hit the post and were unlucky not to score," the Italian veteran said at a press conference after the game.

"In the second half we played very well and scored four goals and I saw a very good Guangzhou team play tonight," the manager said.

Kashiwa Reysol must win by four clear goals at Tianhe Stadium next week to become the first Japanese side to reach the final since Gamba Osaka won the title in 2008.

Guangzhou Evergrande closes in on spot in Asian final

Guangzhou Evergrande FC supporters celebrate after their team defeated Kashiwa Reysol during the semifinal soccer match of AFC champions league at Hitachi Kashiwa stadium in Kashiwa, Chiba prefecture, Japan, Sept 25, 2013. [Photo/CFP]

More stories about Evergrande's AFC champions league trip:

Lippi eyes breakthrough in AFC Champions League

Guangzhou beats Qatar 2-0 in AFC first leg

Mariners goes down to Evergrande in AFC Champions League

Evergrande, again, into AFC quarterfinals

Guangzhou Evergrande advances into knockout stage despite loss, expulsion

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