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Guangzhou beat Vissel Kobe to end winless run

Doha (AFP) – Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande snapped a seven-game winless streak in the Asian Champions League with a 2-0 victory over Japan’s Vissel Kobe on Saturday.

First-half goals from Brazilians Anderson Talisca and Ai Kesen were enough for Guangzhou to avenge their defeat to Vissel Kobe just three days ago and put themselves in contention for a spot in the round of 16.

Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro had been at his wit’s end with his team’s inability to crack open rival defences, conceding he didn’t have an explanation as to what was wrong with them.

But the strong words he has directed at his team finally seemed to have their desired effect as the 2013 and 2015 winners jumped to second spot in Group G with four points, two behind leaders Vissel Kobe.

Saturday’s opponents had already qualified after two wins from as many matches, with their group left with only three teams following the withdrawal of Malaysian outfit Johor Darul Ta’zim.

“We started very well and did well in the first half. Anderson Talisca scored and everyone was happy,” Cannavaro said.

“I am not so happy about our second half performance because we controlled the game and only looked to see it through, because 2-0 can be sometimes a small and risky margin.

“However, I am happy for the players, because winning the game can give you a lot of confidence.”

Guangzhou, who have won eight of the last 10 Chinese Super League titles and were runners up in 2018 and 2020, also had a poor record against Japanese teams in the continental competition.

They had lost four of their past six games against Japanese sides and knew another loss would severely compromise their chances of making the round of 16.

Guangzhou established early control and went ahead in the 17th minute with a perfectly taken penalty by Talisca after he was fouled by Hirofumi Watanabe.

Talisca missed two chances after that and Zhong Yihao also saw his effort saved by Vissel Kobe goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura.

Iikura couldn’t keep out a free-kick from Ai Kesen as Guangzhou increased their lead in the 38th minute.

Vissel Kobe managed to put pressure on Guangzhou in the final 15 minutes, but a shot from Andres Iniesta was saved and Douglas headed the ball just over.

Ai Kesen almost got his second goal late in the match but his shot went just wide of the far past after he had got past two defenders.

Meanwhile in Group H, Shanghai SIPG edged Yokohama F. Mariners 2-1 to end the Japanese side’s three-game winning streak in the competition.

Shanghai had lost their first clash against Yokohama on Wednesday but made good of the limited opportunities that came their way on Saturday to go level on points with the Mariners, who stay ahead on goal difference.

Cai Huikang gave Shanghai the lead in the 14th minute with a header from close range following a corner but their advantage was short-lived as Ado Onaiwu restored parity in the 21st minute with a shot from the edge of the six-yard box.

Ricardo Lopes’ 55th minute striker from a through pass by Oscar put Shanghai ahead again and Vitor Pereira’s men hung onto it for their third win in four matches.

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