Hong Kong (AFP) – Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande roared back from two goals down on Tuesday with four second-half goals from Ricardo Goulart completing a sensational 5-3 AFC Champions League victory over Jeju United.
On a night when it rained goals, Cannavaro’s former club Tianjin Quanjian were thumped 6-3 at 2016 winners Jeonbuk Motors, whose giant striker Kim Shin-wook bagged his first Champions League hat-trick.
Evergrande, the club who have declared they want to field an all-Chinese side by 2020, had to thank their two prolific Brazilian forwards for the victory over their Korean visitors.
The Chinese champions found themselves 2-0 down after 29 minutes at the Tianhe Stadium to goals from Jin Seong-uk and Magno Cruz.
But Goulart’s goal spree thrilled the raucous home crowd after fellow Brazilian Alan’s strike deep into first-half stoppage time had given Guangzhou a lifeline.
The 2006 World Cup-winning Italian captain Cannavaro had endured a stuttering start at the southern Chinese club since taking over from Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Evergrande to a seventh successive Chinese Super League (CSL) title last year.
Evergrande drew both their previous Group G matches and lost their CSL opener 5-4 to derby rivals Guangzhou R&F on Friday.
But they now lead Group G by a point from Thailand’s Buriram United, who enjoyed a 2-0 home win over Japan’s Cerezo Osaka courtesy of goals from Andres Tunez and Edgar Silva.
Cannavaro led Tianjin Quanjian to Champions League qualification last season and his former charges took a shock lead in the 10th minute in Jeonju when a partially-cleared corner was volleyed home sweetly by right-back Zhang Cheng.
The towering Kim saw one header disallowed before the 6ft 6in (1.98m) target man rose in the 24th minute to head the equaliser. Three minutes before half-time, Jeonbuk were ahead courtesy of Han Kyo-won.
Brazilian Ricardo Lopes swept home before Kim bagged two more to complete his hat-trick in the 64th minute and captain Choi Bo-kyung then found the net to make it 6-1.
A late Zhao Xuri header and an Alexandre Pato penalty were only consolations for the visitors as Jeonbuk made it three wins from three matches to go five points clear at the top of Group E.
Kashiwa Reysol registered a first win in this year’s competition and joined Tianjin on four points after labouring past Hong Kong’s Kitchee 1-0 in Japan thanks to Junya Ito’s 66th-minute winner.
Kitchee remain rock bottom of Group E without a goal or a point so far in their debut AFC Champions League campaign but will have another chance when they host Kashiwa at Hong Kong Stadium next week.
– Duhail make it three on the spin –
Meanwhile in West Asia, Qatar’s Duhail continued their impressive run, beating Uzbek giants Lokomotiv Tashkent 3-2 for their third straight win.
All three goals for Duhail came in the first 25 minutes with Moroccan forward Youssef El Arabi, the highest scorer in the Qatar Stars League, twice on target and his compatriot Youssel Msakni also helping himself to a goal, with a deft chip over the onrushing Lokomotiv goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov.
Lokomotiv hit a rare two-minute purple patch in the second half with Nivaldo and Marat Bikmaev scoring in the 57th and 59th minutes, but Djamel Belmadi’s Duhail held on to complete a deserved win.
The UAE’s Al Wahda suffered their third straight defeat, falling 2-0 to Iran’s Zobahan with Mortez Tabrizi scoring once in each half.
Zobahan are second behind Duhail in the standings with two wins and a defeat.
In other matches, the UAE’s Al Ain and Iran’s Estheglal played out a 2-2 draw while Qatar’s Al Rayyan clinched a valuable away point by holding Saudi giants Al Hilal 1-1.