Guangzhou: Brazilian striker Muriqui scored twice as Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande boosted their hopes of a maiden appearance in last 16 of the AFC Champions League after a deserved 3-1 win over Japanese counterparts Kashiwa Reysol in Group H on Tuesday.
Roared on by a passionate 40,000 crowd at Tianhe Sport Center, Muriqui (Luiz Guilherme da Conceicao Silva) struck twice in the second half after Kashiwa captain Hiroki Sakai had cancelled out Dario Conca's first-half penalty shortly after half-time.
With Korea Republic's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors beating Buriram United 3-2 to join the Thai treble winners on six points, Guangzhou moved a point clear at the top of Group H with two games remaining, with Kashiwa two points off the pace at the foot of the table.
"In the away game in Japan we did a better job in terms of ball control and also in other aspects, but because of Kashiwa's marking we failed to score," said Guangzhou's Korean coach Lee Jang-soo.
"Today in the second half we made some changes and created open space and we took advantage of this. If we had not worked harder after the equaliser, the result would have been different.
"This was the fourth match, and we still have two to go. The result in this group will not be decided until the last match and we must be serious about the upcoming games."
The home side broke the deadlock after 29 minutes when, after Muriqui was upended just inside the Kashiwa area by Hirofumi Watanabe, Conca confidently sent goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno the wrong way from the resulting penalty.
Kashiwa, though, needed just five minutes of the second half to restore parity as Guangzhou failed to clear Leandro Domingues' right wing free-kick and Sakai pounced on the loose ball inside the six-yard area giving Yang no chance.
But after Yang produced a smart save to deny Kashiwa substitute Masakatsu Sawa, the home side regained the lead two minutes before the hour mark as Muriqui's downward header from Zhao Xuri's chipped cross skipped past Sugeno.
Muriqui then sealed the three points with six minutes remaining as the Brazilian wriggled free on the edge of the Kashiwa area and coolly beat Sugeno with an eye-catching strike.
Conca was denied his second of the night four minutes later as the Argentinean's sublime chip from the edge of the area came back off the face of the crossbar with Sugeno beaten.
"We played at 90% for the whole game. We did a good job in the first half, but two mistakes meant our efforts were in vain," said Kashiwa coach Nelsinho Baptista.
"We have also lost two games in a row in the J.League and the players are not in a good condition.
"They tried their best, but the result was not satisfactory."