Andres Iniesta produced yet another masterclass for Vissel Kobe as they became the first team from East Asia to progress to the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League 2020 after a 3-1 win over CSL giants Guangzhou Evergrande FC at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar on Wednesday.
Iniesta, who arrived in Japan on a three-year deal after ending his illustrious career at FC Barcelona in 2018, is in his first AFC Champions League campaign as he nears the end of his contract. Wednesday's display was enough proof he has a real shot at winning the Asian crown as he looks to end his career on a high.
Vissel's domestic campaign has been nothing short of calamitous as they sit 11th in the J1 League standings and their hopes of redeeming the season rest on an improved showing in this tournament.
After missing the mark from close range in the 43rd minute, Iniesta created the opening goal by squaring the ball to Kyogo Furuhashi who broke the deadlock before the break. Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro's three changes at halftime bore fruit as Furuhashi scored at the wrong end while trying to keep out an effort from Talisca.
Both sides had their chances to pull ahead, but it was the Japanese outfit who found the breakthrough via Douglas in the 74th minute before Iniesta got onto the scoresheet with a neat finish six minutes from time.
Vissel advancing to the last 16 means it is left to Guangzhou and Suwon Samsung Bluewings to battle it out for the final knockout spot from the three-team Group G. The Chinese side will play Vissel again on Saturday before Guangzhou and Suwon face off on December 1.
Yokohama make it three wins from three as Jeonbuk stay alive
Yokohama F. Marinos' Jun Amano scored a late winner as they snatched all three points from Shanghai SIPG FC at the Al Janoub Stadium and maintained their perfect record after three matches in Group E .
Ange Postecoglou's side threatened from the star. Daizen Maeda and Shinnosuke Hatanaka managed to get on the end of Thailand international Theerathon Bunmathan's crosses in the first half but failed to hit the target with headers.
Hulk went close for Shanghai late in the first period before Ken Matsubara conceded a penalty after a foul on Mirahmetjan Muzepper in the 79th minute. Former Chelsea midfielder Oscar had the opportunity to score the late winner for Shanghai from the spot but was denied by Japanese keeper Powell Obinna Obi.
Shanghai were left to rue the missed opportunity as Amano scored on the rebound after Terunhit Nakagawa's initial header was saved by Shanghai shot-stopper Wei Chen. Meanwhile, South Korean champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors kept their hopes alive in the tournament after a narrow 1-0 win over A-League winners Sydney FC, thanks to a first-half strike from Na Sung-eun. Sydney's loss effectively ends their Asian Champions League campaign with no chance to progress out of the group stage.
Yokohama have nine points from three matches while the Chinese side are second with six points. Jeonbuk follow in third with four points having played a match extra. Yokohama and Shanghai meet again on Saturday for part two of their double-header while Jeonbuk will be next in action against 2019 Japanese champions Yokohama on December 1.