Shanghai (AFP) – Guangzhou Evergrande nullified the twin threat of Alexandre Pato and Anthony Modeste to earn a 0-0 draw at Chinese rivals Tianjin Quanjian in the Asian Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.
Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou will return home for the second leg next Tuesday slight favourites to progress following a dreary game lacking poise and invention.
But it might have been even better for the reigning Chinese Super League (CSL) champions and two-time AFC winners had Brazilian winger Alan not blazed the ball over early in the second half when a rare opportunity arose for the visitors.
At the other end, French striker Modeste saw a header saved soon after half-time and wasted the home side’s best opportunity on 72 minutes when he shot wide and high when clear through on goal.
Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng Cheng then made a double save from former AC Milan starlet Pato and Modeste.
But the duo otherwise showed little, and when they did, Cannavaro’s side successfully snuffed them out — and not always fairly.
The 30-year-old Modeste, on loan from Cologne in Germany, was booked in the first period for an elbow when going up for a challenge.
And the striker was on the end of some roughhouse treatment too, Guangzhou defender Kim Young-gwon earning a yellow card for clattering into him.
If Cannavaro’s plan on the return to his previous employers was to ruffle Tianjin’s foreign stars, it worked.
Yu Hanchao was the next to go into the referee’s book after he raked his studs down the calf of Tianjin’s Belgian international Axel Witsel.
Six players were booked in all, in a game that did little for the reputation of Chinese or Asian football.
In the other last-16 tie, Thailand’s Buriram United defeated Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea 3-2 at home in a thrilling first leg.
Buriram’s Brazilian forward Edgar Silva hit a brace.
In West Asia, Al Duhail’s incredible season showed no sign of a slowdown as the top Qatari side brushed aside the UAE’s Al Ain 4-2.
Djamel Belmadi’s Qatar Cup and Qatar Stars League winenrs are unbeaten the entire season with this latest success their seventh straight victory in the continental tournament after they finished the group stage with an all-win record in six matches.
Al Ain are the most successful UAE club in history, winning in 2003 and finishing runners-up in 2005 and 2016 in addition to the numerous domestic league and cup titles they have claimed since their inception in 1968.
But ‘The Boss’, as they are known locally, spent the better portion of the match playing second fiddle to the Qataris as Al Duhail went up in the 16th minute through Youssef El Arabi, the highest scorer in the Qatar Stars League.
Goals by Nam Tae-hee, Ismail Mohamed and Almoez Ali then saw Al Duhail lead 4-0 after just 55 minutes, but Al Ain salvaged some pride by reducing the margin through Ahmed Khalil and Diaky Ibrahim.
Zobahan overcame fellow Iranians Estheglal 1-0 with Giorgi Gvelesiani’s last-gasp penalty kick proving the difference after Rouzbeh Cheshmi had handled the ball in the third minute of injury time.
Farshid Esmaeili almost gave Estheglal the lead but his 16th minute effort off a Server Djeparov cross was saved by goalkeeper Mohamed Mazaheri.
Both sides had a couple of chances after that but although Mohamed Nejamahdi was sent off in the final minute of regular time, Gvelesiani’s successful penalty came to Zobahan’s aid.