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Guangzhou into AFC Champions League last 16

SAITAMA, Japan: China’s Guangzhou Evergrande scrambled into the AFC Champions League last 16 yesterday despite a 3-2 loss to Urawa Red Diamonds in which they finished with 10 men and had coach Marcello Lippi sent to the stands.
In a dramatic encounter in Saitama, Japan’s Urawa kept their title hopes alive heading into next week’s final group games, and also flirted with the three-goal victory margin which would have kept Guangzhou’s progression on hold.
Lippi, who led Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 and wants to make Guangzhou China’s first Asian champions in 23 years, let his frustrations show and was ordered from the touchline for kicking a water bottle as they went 3-1 down.
A controversial late effort from Muriqui — in which the referee missed a linesman’s flag for offside — eased Guangzhou’s worries, although they were also hit by a stoppage-time red card against defender Zhang Linpeng.
The evening’s events could still have consequences for Guangzhou, with Zhang and Lippi both now facing bans for next week’s game with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as they aim to hang on to top spot in Group F and gain an easier last 16 draw.
Lippi did not appear at the post-match press conference but was replaced by assistant coach Massimiliano Maddaloni, who called it a “reasonable result.”
Urawa manager Mihailo Petrovic said his team richly deserved their win.
“My players fought hard from the beginning trying to score goals. It was a game we deserved to win,” Petrovic said.
Urawa captain Yuki Abe missed a penalty mid-way through the first half and the hosts, Asian champions in 2007, counted the cost when ex-Borussia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios struck for Guangzhou in the 36th minute.
Brazil’s Muriqui robbed Ryota Moriwaki and fed the Paraguayan forward, who broke through defenders and stepped past goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato to score in the empty net.
However, Shinzo Koroki made it 1-1 seven minutes after half-time when he was on hand to flick in a shot from Tadaaki Hirakawa.
Urawa then seized control with two goals in three minutes, when Tomoaki Makino crossed for Abe to score in the 63rd minute and Koroki was brought down in the box shortly afterwards.
Brazilian midfielder Marcio Richardes converted the spot-kick on 66 minutes to leave Guangzhou, who only needed to avoid defeat by a three-goal margin to go through, teetering at 3-1 down.
Lippi was ordered off for lashing out at the water bottle in an anxious spell for the visitors. But Muriqui scored, adjudged offside but unsighted by Iranian referee Mohsen Torki, before Zhang was sent off in injury time.
In the other Group F game, former Asian champions Jeonbuk beat Thailand’s Muangthong United 2-0 but were prevented from reaching the knockout phase by Urawa’s surprise win.
The 2006 winners, now one point behind Urawa in third spot — with only the top two going through — face the difficult task of playing leaders Guangzhou in next week’s final group game, while Urawa face bottom club Muangthong.
Meanwhile in Group E, Thailand’s Buriram United were just seconds from a victory which would have put them into the knockouts before Japanese outfit Vegalta Sendai snatched a 1-1 draw in the 93rd minute.
Buriram’s Osmar Barba had glanced in a free kick in the 53rd minute and Theerathon Bunmathan hit the bar near the end but they paid for some wasteful finishing when Takayuki Nakahara’s neat volley claimed a point for Sendai.
In the same group, K-League champions FC Seoul beat China’s Jiangsu Sainty 2-0 to safely reach the two-legged round of 16, which starts on May 14.