The fight for the last knockout spot in Group G of the AFC Champions League will come down to the final matchday after Guangzhou Evergrande FC and Suwon Samsung Bluewings FC drew 1-1 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday.
Japan's Vissel Kobe already advanced by winning their first two matches and Tuesday's results confirmed their status as the group winners. Guangzhou held on to the point to wrap up their group stage campaign with five points from four matches while Suwon have two points from three. A win by more than two goals against Vissel, who sit top with six points, will help them leapfrog Guangzhou to second on goal difference and advance to the last 16.
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In a neck-and-neck battle between the former Asian champions, Suwon broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute when 32-year-old forward Lim Sang-hyub netted on the rebound after Lee Ki-je's free-kick was kept out by Guangzhou goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo.
Wei Shihao's equaliser in the 72nd minute put Fabio Cannavaro's side on a brief ascendancy at the Qatari capital, they were on their back foot only a couple of minutes later when midfielder Zhong Yihao was sent off after seeing a second yellow card following a challenge on Kim Tae-hwan.
Sydney shocks Shanghai SIPG
Group H is all but set as Yokohama F. Marinos thumped Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 4-1 at the Al Janoub Stadium to ensure their first-ever appearance in the knockout phase of the tournament and eliminated the South Koreans in the process.
Joining them in the Round of 16 from the group will be Chinese giants Shanghai SIPG FC who progress despite suffering a shock 4-0 thrashing at the hands of A-League champions Sydney FC. Shanghai will have to record a big win over Jeonbuk and hope for a Yokohama loss in their final match to have any hope of winning the group.
Yokohama had a dream start against the reigning K League champions on Tuesday when after 17 minutes Thailand international full-back Theerathon Bunmathan planted a stunning strike in the top corner and left Jeonbuk custodian Song Bum-keun rooted to his spot.
Marcos Junior doubled their lead six minutes into the second half by finishing a no-look pass from Teruhito Nakagawa. Jeonbuk reduced the deficit through a Gustavo penalty three minutes later, but Nakagawa restored Yokohama's two-goal lead in the 71st minute. A Song own goal sealed the 4-1 win for Yokohama.
Shanghai, whose knockout berth was confirmed earlier in the day after Yokohama's win, was in for a shocker as Sydney ran ragged over Vitor Pereira's side that featured big names like Oscar and Aaron Mooy. Alex Wilkinson opened the scoring for the Australians in the 28th minute before Luke Brattan made it 2-0 before the half-time break.
Trent Buhagiar, who has come under scrutiny during the tournament for his reckless play in front of the goal, finally found his scoring boots rounding Shanghai goalkeeper Chen Wei and rolling the ball into the net for Sydney's third before completing a brace three minutes later.
Yokohama top the group with 12 points from five matches while Shanghai are second with nine. Eliminated sides Jeonbuk and Sydney both are on four points heading into the final matchday when Yokohama face Sydney and Shanghai take on Jeonbuk.