FIFA World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi led his new Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande into the AFC Champions League quarter-finals with a narrow 1-0 victory over FC Tokyo today. Brazilian striker Cleo's strike on the half-hour decided a pulsating match in front of a vociferous crowd at Guangzhou's Tianhe stadium as the hosts got over the line despite spurning a host of chances.
At the other end, FC Tokyo's Brazilian forward Lucas saw a late header come back off the post as the Emperor's Cup-holders came within inches of forcing extra time. The win, in only Lippi's third game in charge, takes the highly ambitious Chinese champions into the last eight of Asia's club showcase and a step closer to their goal of winning the continental title.
Argentine midfielder Dario Conca played a starring role with some bamboozling passes but it was Cleo who rounded off an attractive move for the game's only goal. Guangzhou's other Brazilian marksman, Muriqui, played a killer ball over the defence which Cho Won-Hee half-volleyed goalwards for Cleo to bundle over from close range.
Italy's Lippi became China's biggest coaching acquisition when he replaced South Korean Lee Jang-Soo at big-spending Guangzhou, who also smashed the Chinese transfer record in acquiring Conca.
Kashiwa crash out
Meanwhile Korea Republic's Ulsan Hyundai Horangi sent Japanese title-holders Kashiwa Reysol crashing out with an entertaining 3-2 win. Ulsan were aided by a Naoya Kondo own-goal as they became the only K-League side to reach the quarter-finals, after 2010 Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma were ousted a day earlier.
Kim Shin-Wook put the hosts ahead on 54 minutes before Brazilian midfielder Leandro Domingues equalised for Kashiwa. But Kondo's blunder restored the lead for Ulsan, who got their third on 88 minutes through Lee Keun-Ho. Kashiwa's Junya Tanaka rifled home a left-footed volley in injury-time but it came too late for a revival by the J-League side, who impressed at last year's FIFA Club World Cup under their Brazilian coach Nelsinho.
Next month's draw for the quarter-finals will also feature Australia's Adelaide United and Uzbek champions Bunyodkor, who won on Tuesday. Last week, three Saudi teams booked their places in the last eight - two-time winners Al Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli - along with Sepahan of Iran.