広州恒大 (Guangzhou Evergrande) 1 FC東京 (FC Tokyo) 0

FC Tokyo’s 1-0 loss to Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande ended all J.League interest in the 2012 AFC Champions League, making it three tournaments in four in which Japanese teams have failed to progress beyond the Round of 16 since it was introduced in 2009.

Despite dominating possession, the Gas had fewer opportunities of note, Muriqui proving especially wasteful for the Southern China Tigers, and it wasn’t until the belated introduction of Hiroki Kawano that they were able to convert sustained possession into an attacking threat, his first touch a cross for Lucas which was headed against the woodwork. The transformation was almost instantaneous, and manager Ranko Popovic may reflect on how his side might have performed had he been allowed more than the 10 minutes in total he spent on the pitch.

The potent attacking line of Cleo, Miriqui and Gao Lin, with the Argentine midfielder Dario Conca assisting between the lines and new manager Marcello Lippi at the helm, will provide difficult opposition for most sides, particularly at the Tianhe Stadium, but the AFC must surely now revisit the Round of 16 and extend it to a standard two-leg stage, rather than the single elimination contest as it currently stands. The 2012 competition saw six of the eight group winners and subsequent home sides advancing to the quarter-finals, with just Bunyodkor winning away without the need for a penalty shootout, and making this 19 of 24 teams since 2010 who have won at home.


AFC Champions League: Group H Matchday Six Round-up and Results

(Highlights of Kashiwa Reysol’s Group H Matchday Six victory which sent them into the Round of 16. The Sun Kings will now meet either fellow J.League Division 1 side FC Tokyo or South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai on 30 May for a place in the quarter-final)

Kashiwa Reysol travelled to the Jeonju World Cup Stadium knowing only a victory would suffice against K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to progress to the Round of 16. The Sun Kings ran out surprisingly comfortable winners, a 2-0 triumph coming courtesy of second-half goals from Leandro Domingues and Junya Tanaka. Lee Dong-Gook failed to convert a late penalty for the South Korean side, but they otherwise found chances difficult to come by, Naoya Kondo and Tatsuya Masushima excellent in defence for the visitors.

The result sent Reysol to the top of Group H temporarily, and until the 90th minute of the remaining tie they looked set for a home fixture in the Round of 16. Also requiring all three points to enter the knockout stages, Guangzhou Evergrande were being held at the Thunder Castle by Buriram United, a 49th minute goal from Gao Lin being cancelled out ten minutes later by Suriya Domtaisong, but a last gasp penalty from Dario Conca gave the Southern Chinese Tigers first place in the group and in so doing put last year’s finalists Jeonbuk out of the competition.

Second place in Group H means Reysol will play their Round of 16 elimination match against either FC Tokyo or Ulsan Hyundai away from home on 30 May. The Gas and the Horangi play at the Big Crown on 16 May, with the J.League side only requiring a point to maintain their pre-eminence in Group F.

(Kashiwa Reysol’s victory in South Korea against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors meant both Guangzhou Evergrande and Buriram United needed to win to advance to the latter stages of the tournament. The two sides missed a number of excellent chances to win the game, until Dario Conca converted a 90th minute spot-kick for the Chinese team)

Group H

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol Small Kashiwa Reysol
Domingues 49′
Tanaka 63′
Buriram United
Domtaisong 57′
1 Guangzhou Evergrande
Gao Lin 49′
Conca 90′ (pen.)
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Guangzhou Evergrande 6 3 1 2 12 8 +4 10
2 Kashiwa Reysol 6 3 1 2 11 7 +4 10
3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 6 3 0 3 10 15 -5 9
4 Buriram United 6 2 0 4 8 11 -3 6

柏レイソル (Kashiwa Reysol) 0 広州恒大 (Guangzhou Evergrande) 0

Kashiwa Reysol line-up for the official photo before the AFC Champions League Group H fixture with Guangzhou Evergrande on 4 April, which ended 0-0. Reysol are second in Group H on goal difference with three matches remaining (Image courtesy official Kashiwa Reysol website)

The Sun Kings took a point in a tactically interesting but otherwise excitement-free contest in Wednesday’s Group H AFC Champions League against Chinese Super League title holders Guangzhou Evergrande, but they will need to produce a better performance in the return fixture if they are to avoid a repeat of a home leg in which they were outplayed by technically superior opponents for large periods.

Manager Nelsinho chose to make three changes to the team which stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Jubilo Iwata, Ryoji Fukui coming in at left-back for his first appearance for Kashiwa Reysol, while Tatsuya Masushima was favoured over Daisuke Nasu at centre-back and Leandro Domingues returned to the heart of midfield, Koki Mizuno the player to make way.

Within the first minute the attacking intent of the Southern China Dragons was made clear. A defence splitting pass found Muriqui, and with Masushima holding the Brazilian winger and pulling him to the floor, the referee overlooked a clear penalty claim as Cleo followed up on the loose ball but lashed his shot over the crossbar.

Defensive frailties have cost Reysol on a number of occasions already this season, and they were nearly made to pay three minutes later when Masushima failed to clear a cross from Gao Lin on the right, the ball dropping to Xiang on the edge of the penalty area whose strike only narrowly cleared the bar.

Reysol attempted to use a favoured tactic of Leandro Domingues sliding a ball to overlapping full-back on a few occasions, but the channel was largely closed down by the interesting shape adopted by Evergrande. What at times appeared an orthodox 4-2-3-1 shifted to a 2-5-3, the forwards pressing tightly on Reysol’s defensive line and forcing them to cede possession, while the crowded midfield meant Domingues had both little time in possession and space to pass in to. One of the limited successes was on the 10 minute mark when Sakai latched on to a pass and drifted into the box, but his pull back was too strong for the arriving Jorge Wagner, and then moments later Domingues found Sakai again, his cross headed back to the waiting Domingues by Masato Kudo, but the Brazilian midfielder found his shot blocked.

Midway through the first period Reysol had a brief glimpse of goal. Sakai, probably Reysol’s best performer of the evening, escaped the challenge of Sun Xiang, and although the subsequent cross slightly too high for Junya Tanaka, the forward did extremely well to glance a knock-down to Wagner, and his sliding right-footed shot was just wide of the upright.

Takanori Sugeno was the first of the goalkeepers called into action on the night. Half an hour had been played when Dario Conca, the elusive Argentinian midfielder whose $10.4 million annual salary makes him among the highest paid players in the world, lined up a free-kick from 35 yards after Muriqui had been brought down. His powerful shot cleared the Reysol wall, but was straight at Sugeno, who punched long to clear.

With thirteen minutes to go in the first period, it was Yang Jun’s turn to make a save. Domingues had a rare sight of goal, and he bent a low left-footed shot from 18 yards, which Jun gather comfortably to his right. The home side and manager were visibly frustrated towards the end of the half, passes being misplaced and a very high defensive line from Evergrande regularly catching Reysol forwards in an offside position. As the half drew to a close, the question would be whether Nelsinho would shuffle the side and formation to deal with tactics meant to stifle their attacking play and catch the Sun Kings on the counter-attack.

Unfortunately for Reysol, the second-half began in similar fashion to the first. After Tanaka had been caught offside within the very first minute, only two excellent tackles, first from Sakai and then from Naoyo Kondo, prevented both Muriqui and Cleo having just Sugeno to beat. Twelve minutes had elapsed in the second period when Masushima was then required to make a last-ditch block, Conca crossing and Gao Lin turning Sakai before the centre-back ensured the shot was deflected away for a corner.

Captain Hidekazu Otani and Leandro Domingues were still struggling to get a foothold in the midfield, but with 25 minutes on the clock Nelsinho opted not to reinforce the midfield, instead opting to replace Junya Tanaka with Akimi Barada, and two minutes later the naivety of the substitution was underlined when Kudo was caught offside once more.

70 minutes had passed when Reysol finally appeared to find some possession, coinciding with substitute Ricardo Lobo coming on for Masato Kudo, Lobo acting as a pivot between the midfield and Akimi Barada when all too often the Reysol forward line had been isolated. The Sun Kings had to endure a couple of nervous moments moving in to the last 10 minutes, but they had their two best opportunities of the match in quick succession, first Sakai breaking down the right-wing and whipping a cross which Lobo steered beyond Jun’s right post, and then on 81 minutes Jorge Wagner gaining possession on the left edge of the penalty area, his attempted shot was met by a sliding Lobo but with not enough purchase to send it into the goal, the ball only inches wide of the right post.

Both sides seemed satisfied to play out the remaining minutes and settle for a draw, but the Chinese side will be most content with the draw. Both sides are level on points in second place in Group H, but Evergrande with two matches to play at home, including the return fixture with Reysol at the Tianhe Stadium on 17 April.

Kashiwa Reysol Guangzhou Evergrande
Goalscorers Min Goalscorers Min
Substitutes Min Substitutes Min
Junya Tanaka
Akimi Barada
Masato Kudo
Ricardo Lobo
Cautions Min Cautions Min
Ryoji Fukui 14
Ryoichi Kurisawa 64

Kashiwa Reysol: 4-4-2 (Yellow); Guangzhou Evergrande: 4-1-3-2/2-5-3 (Red)

AFC Champions League Group H live-blog: 柏レイソル (Kashiwa Reysol) v. 広州恒大 (Guangzhou Evergrande)

Full-Time Thank you for joining me. A full match and analysis of the match will follow on 5 April.

Full-Time: Kashiwa Reysol 0 Guangzhou Evergrande 0

90 Mins+2: The referee signals for the end of the match.

90 Mins+1: Both sides appear to have settled for a point, which is more to the benefit of the visitors than Reysol, who face their Chinese opponents in Guangzhou in two weeks.

90 Mins: There will be 2 minutes of added time.

85 Mins: Reysol having plenty of possession in the last 10 minutes. The home side have a corner which Leandro Domingues picks up on the right edge of the penalty area, but his half-volley is well wide of the target.

85 Mins: Five minutes of normal time remain.

83 Mins: A clash of heads between Cleo and Masushima at an Evergrande set-piece leaves the Reysol centre-back marginally worse off, but after a brief stoppage play is underway again.

81 Mins: Wagner attempts a shot from the left edge of the penalty area which is heading wide, but Lobo slides to meet the ball. Unfortunately for Reysol he can’t get enough purchase on the shot and it’s agonisingly wide.

78 Mins: Hiroki Sakai breaks down the right-wing, and whips a ball across which Ricardo Lobo heads, but he steers it beyond Yang Jun’s right post. A rare half-chance for the Sun Kings.

78 Mins: Conca’s corner finds Cleo. His downward header is collected by Muriqui, but he is in an offside position, and his shot was smartly blocked by Sugeno.

77 Mins: Reysol misplacing passes and Cleo strides towards the penalty area. He passes to Won-Hee Cho, who returns it to him, but his shot is blocked and away for a corner.

75 Mins: 30 minutes gone in the second half. Can Reysol change anything in the last quarter of an hour?

72 Mins: Ricardo Lobo comes on for Masato Kudo, another change in the forward line for Reysol.

68 Mins: Conca has a free-kick from the right touchline midway into the Reysol half, but Fukui heads cleanly away.

67 Mins: Hidekazu Otani wins a battle with Conca on the goalline to Sugeno’s left. Otani showed excellent strength to bring the ball away from a very dangerous position.

67 Mins: Masato Kudo now caught offside. Reysol still not quite timing their runs correctly.

65 Mins: Junya Tanaka being replaced by Akimi Barada is the first change for Reysol. With the battle being won in midfield by Evergrande, a change in the forward line-up is unlikely to make any difference. Odd substitution from Nelsinho.

64 Mins: Conca clearly held by Ryoichi Kurasawa whose attempts to challenge legally are frustrated by the skillful Argentinian, and the midfielder is booked.

62 Mins: This is a very technically competent Evergrande side. Neat, intricate passing and movement to which Reysol currently have no answer. Reysol playing long balls down the channels in response.

60 Mins: Naoya Kondo this time blocks a Muriqui shot for a corner, which is cleared.

60 Mins: A second corner after the initial dead ball is cleared. Conca taking left-footed, but it fails to clear the first defender, Fukui.

58 Mins: Qin Sheng throws long into the ball which Reysol struggle to clear, and the ball drops to Conca. The cross is collected by Gao Lin, who turns Sakai before Masushima blocks the shot for a corner on the edge of the six-yard box.

53 Mins: Reysol still not finding any passing rhythm, a game that is passing Leandro Domingues by in particular.

49 Mins: A stunning tackle, this time from Naoyo Kondo, prevents a Cleo one-on-one with Sugeno. Evergrande have opened in the second half as strongly as they did in the first.

48 Mins: A througball from Cao Lin nearly finds Muriqui, but Sakai makes a very timely sliding challenge with the forward bearing down on goal.

46 Mins: A very high line from Evergrande this time catches Tanaka offside.

45 Mins: Reysol get us underway in the second half.

Half-Time: Otani and Domingues are having difficulty getting a foothold in the game, the midfield line in which Conca is pulling strings holding a numerical advantage. Perhaps a tactical change from Nelsinho is required.

45 Mins: The last action of the first half is a Jorge Wagner cross, which goes straight behind for an Evegrande goal-kick.

42 Mins: A Reysol attack breaks down for the third time in quick succession with a player caught in an offside position. Evergrande holding a line roughly halfway inside their own territory.

40 Mins: Five minutes remaining in the first period, one in which Evergrande have been dominant and created the best goalscoring opportunities.

37 Mins: Reysol fans attempting to lift their players with their rendition of “The Sash”.

32 Mins: Yang Jun is called into action for the very first time with 13 minutes remaining in the first half, Leandro Domingues bending a low shot right-footed from outside the 18 yard box, which Jun gathers low to his right.

30 Mins: Muriqui is brought down 35 yards from goal, Conca choosing to shoot from distance, but his powerful shot is straight at Sugeno, who punches strongly to clear.

26 Mins: Another free-kick for Conca on the right, and he guides a left footed ball into the penalty area. Sakai challenges with Cleo, and the ball deflects harmlessly off the head of the Guangzhou player for a goal kick. Reysol regularly infringing in attacking positions for Evergrande.

24 Mins: Hirko Sakai escapes a challenge on the Reysol right, and although his cross is just too high for Junya Tanaka, Tanaka does very well to head back and a sliding Jorge Wagner connects from 8 yards, his shot narrowly wide of the right upright.

22 Mins: Cleo lays off a ball to Cho on the right-wing, but his cross is over-hit and behind for a Reysol goal kick. Sugeno clears to halfway.

20 Mins: Nelsinho is clearly unhappy on the touchline, barking instructions at his players, but what appears to be at this stage a straight 4-4-2 may not be the correct approach from the manager.

18 Mins: Conca’s corner, fortunately for Reysol, is returned to him in an offside position, and the Sun Kings can clear.

17 Mins: Conca has a shot from the edge of the penalty area which Masushima importantly blocks. Reysol under a great deal of pressure at the moment, and panicking in defence. Masushima heads a cross for a corner when Sugeno could have collected.

15 Mins: Reysol are struggling to deal with what seems an imaginative 2-5-3 formation from Evergrande, particularly the overloaded midfield.

14 Mins: The resulting free-kick is poor and cleared easily by the Reysol defence.

13 Mins: Ryoji Fukui is booked for bringing down Gao Lin on the Evergrande right. Li feignted to bring the ball inside and beat Fukui for pace.

13 Mins: Leandro Domingues switches play to an overlapping Hiroki Sakai whose cross is headed back to Domingues, but his shot is blocked.

10 Mins: Reysol’s first shot is from Ryoji Fukui from long-distance following a cleared Jorge Wagner corner is several feet over the bar. A classic “defender’s shot”.

9 Mins: The first hint of an opportunity for Reysol, excellent work from Hiroki Sakai taking him into the box but his pull back evades all the Reysol runners.

7 Mins: Conca takes a free kick in a dangerous area for Evergrande, and although he mishits his attempted cross, it falls kindly for Cleo. His attempted shot is blocked and cleared away by Masushima.

4 Mins: Another early opportunity for Evergrande. Masushima fails to deal properly with a cross from the Evergrande right, and the loose ball falls to Sun Xiang on the edge of the penalty area. His strike is narrowly over the cross bar.

1 Min: Guangzhou have an excellent chance to take the lead, a pass splitting the Reysol defence, and with the referee failing to give what seems a clear penalty for a pull by Masushima on Muriqi, Cleo follows up on the rebound but sends his shot wildly over the crossbar.

0 Min: At almost precisely 11:00 BST/19:00 JST, Evergrande get us underway, the Chinese Super League champions in red playing from right to left.

0 Min: The Reysol fans are in good voice on a relatively mild and clear night in Kashiwa, particularly after yesterday’s awful weather in the Tokyo area. The teams are just walking out on to the pitch to the AFC Champions League theme. Live coverage from the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium will be underway shortly.

0 Min: Manager Nelsinho makes three changes to the side which stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Jubilo Iwata, Ryoji Fukui and Tatsuya Masushima in defence in place of Daisuke Nasu and Wataru Hashimoto, while Jorge Wagner returns to the Reysol midfield, Koki Mizuno making way.

0 Min: Guangzhou Evergrande – Jun; Xiaoting, Xiang; Sheng, Zhi, Conca, Cho, Xuri; Cleo, Muriqi, Lin

0 Min: Kashiwa Reysol – Sugeno; Kondo, Sakai, Masushima, Fukui; Otani (c), Domingues, Wagner, Kurisawa; Tanaka, Kudo

0 Min: Welcome to today’s liveblog, where I’ll be covering Kashiwa Reysol’s Group H AFC Champions League fixture versus Gunagzhou Evergrande. The reigning J.League Division 1 champions lie second in the group after two matches, but the Chinese Super League holders are third only on goal difference. Both teams defeated defeated 2011 runners-up Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors by a 5-1 scoreline and both have suffered reversals against Thailand’s Buriram United, but as Reysol have two away ties to play in the second half of group matches it’s particularly important they secure a positive result today. I’ll have team news for you very shortly.