Own goal relief for Guangzhou in AFC last 16

Wei Shihao of Guangzhou Evergrande celebrates after scoring against Shandong Luneng during their AFC Champions League round of 16 football match in Guangzhou, in China's southern Guangdong province on June 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Own goal relief for Guangzhou in AFC last 16

KASHIMA: A bizarre own goal 10 minutes from time gave two-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande a 2-1 win over Shandong Luneng, while title holders Kashima Antlers edged Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 as the AFC Champions League last 16 kicked off on Tuesday.

Shandong looked like they had snatched a draw against Fabio Cannavaro's injury-depleted side when Zhang Chi lashed home a second-half equalizer, set up by the former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini.

Evergrande, with first-choice strikers Talisca of Brazil and Gao Lin missing, had started with an inexperienced frontline of Wei Shihao and Yang Liyu up front.

The 24-year-old former Shandong academy player Wei blew a golden chance to score against his old club when he blazed over when put clean through by veteran skipper Zheng Zhi after 20 minutes. 

But he made amends 15 minutes later, when former Barcelona and Spurs midfielder Paulinho broke powerfully down the right and cut back from the byline.

Goalkeeper Wang Dalei failed to deal with the cross and Wei gleefully poked home from seven yards to give the home side the lead, before leaping into manager Cannavaro's arms in celebration.

After Zhang's equalizer gave Shandong a crucial away goal, the match seemed to be heading for a draw until the 80th minute.

Yang Liyu's speculative cross from the right touchline took the slightest of deflections from defender Zheng Zheng's outstretched foot.

But that proved enough to beat Wang, who had inexplicably vacated his near post and could only watch helplessly as the ball squirmed across the line for the winner.

In the first all-Japanese last 16 clash since 2011, Sanfrecce Hiroshima finished with 10 men after Sho Inagaki received a second yellow card in the 86th minute at Kashima. The visitors conceded the only goal in the 24th minute when a long clearance fell to the Kashima's Shoma Doi.

The attacking midfielder drove down the left and into the Hiroshima box where his cross looped up off Yuki Nogami's attempted block for Brazilian striker Serginho to head in from close range for his third goal of this year's competition.

Douglas Vieira enjoyed the best chance for the visitors, but turned and blasted wastefully over the bar when finding himself unmarked on the penalty spot from a 38th-minute corner.

The in-form Sanfrecce arrived in Ibaraki Prefecture on the back of five consecutive AFC Champions League victories, but they rarely threatened Kashima's Korean goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae in a lacklustre match. The second legs to decide the first two quarterfinalists will take place in Shandong and Hiroshima next Tuesday.


‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

Updated 17 July 2019
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‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

  • The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday
  • British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951

PORTRUSH, United Kingdom: Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that he is not feeling extra pressure this week as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, and is hoping home fans can help him end a five-year major drought.
The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday, despite not having claimed a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship.
He said in the past he struggled being the focus of attention at Irish Opens, although he did win that tournament in 2016.
“I think it’s probably easier this week because it’s such a big tournament,” said McIlroy, who opens his title tilt at Royal Portrush at 0909 GMT on Thursday alongside US Open winner Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.
“You’ve got the best players in the world here, and I don’t feel like I’m the center of attention.
“I’m here to enjoy myself. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here. But at the same time, I mightn’t get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again.
“I’m really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.
“I’m going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can’t help you, then nothing can.”
McIlroy fired a course-record 61 on the Dunluce Links at the age of just 16 in 2005, and is one of three Northern Irish major champions in the field along with Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
He said his first memories of Portrush came as a child when watching his father play.
“I remember chipping around the chipping green, being seven or eight years of age, my dad out playing on the Dunluce,” added McIlroy, who played a practice round on Tuesday.
“Portrush ... At least the golf club, has been a big part of my upbringing. It’s sort of surreal that it’s here.
“Even driving in yesterday, when you’re coming in on the road and you look to the right and you’ve got the second tee... I don’t know who was teeing off, maybe (American player) Tony Finau and someone else, (it was) sort of strange to see them here.
“But it’s really cool.”
Since McIlroy’s record the course has been renovated, with the seventh and eighth new holes.
But the 30-year-old said he did not have to spend too much time preparing on the course, such is his familiarity with it.
“I had dinner booked with a parent on Saturday night at 8:00, thinking I’m going to have to spend some time around the greens and just prepare.
“And I got on the road back home and rang them and said, ‘Can we move dinner up?’ Because I finished early. There’s no difference. It’s the same golf course.”
McIlroy has been in strong form this year, winning twice, including the Players’ Championship, and posting 11 top-10 finishes.
He also finished in a tie for second at the Open at Carnoustie last year.
“I think it’s probably the most consistent period of golf I’ve ever played,” the 2014 champion said.