Guangzhou Evergrande thrash Eastern, go top of ACL group
A Brazilian-inspired Guangzhou Evergrande went to the top of Group G of the 2017 AFC Champions League (ACL) on Tuesday with a 6-0 win over Eastern SC of Hong Kong that saw Samba imports Paulinho, Alan and Ricardo Goulart netting all but one of the goals.
With a single game of the group stage remaining, the two-time continental winners will be certain of a place in the last 16 if they avoid defeat at home to Suwon Samsung Bluewings of South Korea on May 9.
At Eastern's Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong, the six-time Chinese Super League winners dominated from the start. They took an early lead as Paulinho ghosted into the area to head home a perfect cross from Zhang Linpeng.
Five minutes before the break, Ricardo Goulart scored from close range to double Guangzhou's advantage.
More goals in the second half were inevitable. Five minutes after the restart, Alan coolly rounded two defenders and a goalkeeper to roll the ball home for the visitors' third. The midfielder added his second with 20 minutes remaining.
The hosts, bottom with one point from five games in their debut Asian appearance, hit the woodwork twice in the closing stages, but could not give their fans a consolation to cheer. It was the away fans celebrating seven minutes from time as Paulinho grabbed his second and Guangzhou's fifth.
Deep into injury time, Yu Hanchao ensured that there was a Chinese name on the scoresheet with a free-kick from a wide position.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings are in second, but the South Koreans missed a chance to book a spot in the knockout stage, losing 1-0 at home to Kawasaki Frontale at Suwon World Cup Stadium.
Kawasaki had the lion's share of possession in the first half. But Suwon came closest to opening to breaking the deadlock as Yeom Ki-hun and Park Gi-dong should have done better with Kengo Nakamura shooting just wide for the visitors.
Early in the second half it was a Nakamura free kick that was headed home by Tatsuki Nara to put Kawasaki into the lead that stayed in place until the end to give the Japanese a first win.
In Group G, already-qualified Jiangsu Suning lost 2-1 at home to Jeju United. The Chinese hosts, with four wins from their first four, picked a strong team against the Koreans, and looked like making it five wins out of five just before the half hour as Ramires headed home a corner.
Magno Cruz hit back after 34 minutes for the South Koreans with a delicate chip over the goalkeeper. But there was nothing delicate about Lee Chang-min's long-range curler that gave Jeju the win that puts the islanders into second on seven points.
There were more goals in Japan as Gamba Osaka were held to a 3-3 draw by the redoubtable Adelaide United in a replay of the 2008 final won by the Japanese.
The hosts opened the scoring after six minutes as Shun Nagasawa took advantage of some lax Australian defending to head home a Yasuhito Endo corner from close range.
Six minutes later, Gamba extended their lead, and did so in spectacular fashion. Ritsu Doan spotted Eugene Galekovic out of position and, despite being five metres outside the right side of the area, the youngster fired a fierce shot into the net.
Adelaide were handed an unlikely lifeline two minutes before the break. There seemed to be little danger on the left side. But then Kim Jung-ya slipped, Papa Diawara swept over a low cross and there was Sergio Cirio to sidefoot coolly into the Gamba goal.
Six minutes after the restart, Adelaide were level as 19-year-old Jordan O'Doherty fired home a rocket into the top corner of the Osaka net from outside the area.
No sooner had the Australians got level, then Ben Garuccio brought down Oh Jae-suk in the area only for veteran midfielder Yasuhito Endo to put the spot kick high into the Kansai sky.
Endo had some relief 13 minutes from time as Nagasawa flicked home at the near post to restore Gamba's lead.
Gamba looked set for a first-ever ACL win at the Suita Stadium until the 91st minute when Papa Diawara headed home a Garuccio free-kick to make it 3-3.
Adelaide, two points behind Jeju, need to defeat Jiangsu in the final game at home and hope that Gamba get something from their trip to South Korea.
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.