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Alexandre Pato

Pato inspires Tianjin into Asian Champions League quarters

Shanghai (AFP) – Alexandre Pato scored one and was instrumental in the other as Tianjin Quanjian beat two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals to reach the Asian Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The Brazilian former AC Milan starlet, who has rejuvenated his injury-disrupted career in China, inspired Tianjin to twice swiftly peg back Guangzhou in a 2-2 draw and squeeze through after the first leg ended goalless.

In the earlier game, a volley from Ricardo Lopes helped Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea into the last eight as they saw off Thailand’s Buriram United.

Defeat in the all-Chinese last-16 tie increases the scrutiny of Fabio Cannavaro, the Italian World Cup winner who took over from Luiz Felipe Scolari at Guangzhou in the close season after steering Tianjin into the Champions League for the first time before quitting.

Guangzhou have dominated Chinese football for nearly a decade, winning seven Chinese Super League (CSL) titles on the spin, but they have now failed to win in their last five matches in all competitions under Cannavaro, exiting the Chinese FA Cup and now Asian competition.

Guangzhou, who lifted the Champions League trophy in 2013 and 2015, have vowed to build an all-Chinese team by 2020, but it was their Brazilian star who put them ahead in the 17th minute.

Winger Alan saw his shot parried by visiting goalkeeper Zhang Lu into the path of striker Ricardo Goulart, who scrambled in.

The home side’s lead lasted just two minutes, however, as Belgian international Axel Witsel stabbed over a floated cross for the 28-year-old Pato to head down and in for Tianjin.

Goulart nabbed his second goal with a free header on 48 minutes, but again the visitors hauled themselves level almost immediately, defender Wang Jie prodding in from close range four minutes later following a Pato set-piece.

In South Korea, Lopes’ clean strike on 18 minutes and Lee Jae-Sung’s 84th-minute free-kick made it 2-0 on the night to Jeonbuk and 4-3 on aggregate as the former champions went through against Buriram.

Jeonbuk won the Asian club championship in 2016 but the South Korean side were banned from last year’s competition over a bribery scandal.

A cushion header from World Cup-bound South Korea striker Kim Shin-wook teed up the Brazilian forward, who volleyed into the top corner to make it 3-3 on aggregate and put Jeonbuk ahead on away goals.

Lee, another Jeonbuk player named in South Korea’s preliminary World Cup squad, sealed the win when he curled home his free-kick left-footed with six minutes to go.


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