Paulinho squeezes Guangzhou into last 16

Paulinho head was the difference. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2019

Paulinho squeezes Guangzhou into last 16

  • The midfielder’s second-half header was the difference for Fabio Cannavaro’s side in a tense 1-0 home win over South Korea’s Daegu

GUANGZHOU: Former Barcelona star Paulinho edged two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande into the AFC Champions League last 16 Wednesday, while title-holders Kashima Antlers had to come from a goal behind to avoid an embarrassing group stage exit.

The midfielder’s second-half header was the difference for Fabio Cannavaro’s side in a tense 1-0 home win over South Korea’s Daegu, who had only needed to avoid defeat to finish second in Group F.

In Japan, a quickfire double from substitute Sho Ito gave Kashima a 2-1 home win over Group E leaders Shandong Luneng, who had taken a 10th-minute lead courtesy of former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini.

Kashima now face an all-Japan clash against Group F winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who won 3-1 at Melbourne Victory.

Meanwhile, Shandong, who topped the group a point ahead of Kashima, will square off against Guangzhou in a blockbuster all-Chinese clash when the knockout stage begins next month.

Cannavaro’s side began the must-win game against Daegu without their potent Brazilian attacking midfielder Anderson Talisca, who was out with a knee injury.

Nervy Evergrande, who won Asia’s premier club competition in 2013 and 2015, finally got the breakthrough on 64 minutes when Paulinho rose to head in via a Daegu defender’s touch, though the 30-year-old Brazilian gleefully claimed the goal for himself.

Kashima only needed a draw to join Shandong in the last 16 but fell behind early as beanpole Belgian Fellaini powered home a header after good work from Brazilian Gil.

The home side struck back in the 68th minute when super-sub Ito smashed home from close range after the visitors failed to clear a Leo Silva corner.

Moments later, Ito beat the offside trap and applied a clinical finish with the outside of his right boot to turn the game on its head for Kashima, who had kept Asia’s premier club title in Japan last year after Urawa Red Diamonds won it in 2017.

Kashima’s comeback meant Korean side Gyeongnam’s 2-0 home victory over Johor Darul Ta’zim in the other Group E match was rendered meaningless.

Luc Castaignos fired the K-League club ahead a little after the hour mark to break stubborn resistance from the Malaysian minnows before Takahiro Kunimoto added an injury-time second.

Japanese veteran Keisuke Honda’s last match in Australia for Melbourne Victory ended in a home defeat as Hiroshima confirmed their Group F dominance.

The former AC Milan star, who turns 33 next month, announced on Tuesday that he will pursue a new challenge after an injury-disrupted single season at the Australian club

Goals from Taishi Matsumoto after five minutes and second-half strikes from Yusuke Minagawa (73) and Tsukasa Morishima (75) sealed the points for Hiroshima after big Swedish striker Ola Toivonen had given Victory brief hope with a 70th-minute equalizer.

Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

Updated 18 June 2019

Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

  • The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay
  • Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time

SAO PAULO: Chile’s experienced Copa America team proved too good for Japan’s young squad.

The two-time defending champions opened their Copa America campaign with a 4-0 win over the Asian guests on Monday, with Eduardo Vargas scoring a pair of goals to become Chile’s all-time leading scorer in the South American competition.

Erick Pulgar and Alexis Sanchez also scored for the titleholders, which are trying to become the first nation to win three straight Copa titles since Argentina in the late 1940s. Vargas scored twice in the second half to reach 12 goals with Chile in the tournament, two more than Enrique Hormazabal.

The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay, which opened with a 4-0 win over Ecuador on Sunday.

“Chile has players who are very experienced, who know each other very well,” Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said. “The challenge today was to avoid a bad debut. We were humble and entered with our feet on the ground. We were playing against a team that was very competitive in all sectors.”

Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time, brought to Brazil a young squad focused on the Olympic tournament at home next year. The Japanese youngsters struggled against the veteran Chilean squad which was in control from the start at the Morumbi Stadium.

Chile won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina in penalty shootouts in the final both in 2015 and 2016. Argentina is the only team to have won three consecutive South American titles, from 1945-47.

Boosted by most of the 23,253 fans at the Morumbi, Chile created most of the significant chances.

After Pulgar headed in a corner-kick cross by Charles Aranguiz in the 41st minute, Vargas added to the lead with a shot from outside the area in the 54th after a pass by Mauricio Isla.

Sanchez found the net with a header in the 82nd, and Vargas closed the scoring about a minute later with a long lob shot over goalkeeper Keisuke Osako as he charged from his net.

It was a good opening match for Sanchez after a difficult season with Manchester United.

“I was coming off a difficult month-and-a-half,” said the 30-year-old Sanchez, who injured his ankle late in the season. “I struggled in the first 45 minutes, I felt tired, but I improved in the second half.”

Rueda, debuting with Chile in an official tournament, has been gradually revamping the squad since he took over in 2018. Among the veterans back from the team’s recent triumphs were Vargas, Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, who also had a good opener.

Japan last played in the Copa America in 1999, when it was eliminated in the group stage. Among the youngsters in Brazil was Takefusa Kubo, the 18-year-old who has joined Real Madrid’s “B” team for next season. He played from the start and was a threat for Japan in attack. He got an ovation from the crowd at the Morumbi after getting past a defender with a ball through his legs about 10 minutes into the match. He nearly scored after a nifty move past a defender inside the area in the 65th, but his shot hit the outside of the net. Japan had a few good chances to get on the board toward the end of the game but could not capitalize on them.