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Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 10:10:00 PM
Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 11:19:09 PM
FC Seoul forward Sergio Escudero (right) celebrates his goal against China's Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final in Seoul on Saturday. The return leg will be held on Nov 9 in China. - EPA
SEOUL (AFP): A late Dejan Damjanovic equaliser left the AFC Champions League final on a knife’s edge as FC Seoul held hot favourites Guangzhou Evergrande 2-2 in the first leg on Saturday.
In a pulsating match at Seoul World Cup Stadium, the hosts took a surprise early lead but they fell 2-1 behind before Damjanovic fired his precious equaliser with seven minutes left.
And it could have been more as both sides had their chances to snatch victory in the dying minutes.
Guangzhou, led by World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, will know they can’t afford any slip-ups in the Nov 9 second leg as they seek to become China’s first Asian champions in 23 years.
“Some players showed today they weren’t playing up to 100% of their capabilities,” Lippi said. “I don’t want to call out any names. I am sure in Guangzhou, they will show everything on the pitch.”
The Italian had complained bitterly before the game after the training pitch supplied in Seoul did not have adequate lighting, forcing them to train indoors at their hotel.
And his defence certainly looked rusty when Sergio Escudero stole in for FC Seoul’s opener when he held off Feng Xiaoting and rolled his shot past goalkeeper Zeng Cheng on 12 minutes.
The goal brought the crowd to life but it was FC Seoul’s turn to show defensive frailty in the 39th minute when Brazilian forward Elkeson rose unmarked to head in a corner kick from close range.
After going in for the breather at 1-1, industrious forward Gao Lin put Guangzhou in front in the 59th minute, deftly redirecting a Sun Xiang cross following a poor clearance attempt.
Damjanovic and fullback Choi Hyo-jin both had chances as FC Seoul showed signs that Guangzhou, who thrashed Kashiwa Reysol 8-1 on aggregate in the semis, might not have it all their own way.
And it was the pony-tailed Montenegrin who set up a thrilling second leg in Guangzhou when he was picked out in space in the box and slammed his shot in on Zeng Cheng’s near post.
Guangzhou’s Brazilian ace Muriqui was twice denied by last-ditch defending and Damjanovic also nearly grabbed the winner in the frantic final minutes.
FC Seoul manager Choi Yong-soo hoped his team’s strong away record, with only one loss on their travels all competition, was a good sign for next month’s decider.
“It’s never easy playing before huge partisan crowds away from home,” Yong-soo said.
Tags / Keywords:
AFC Champions League, Seoul FC, Guangzhou Evergrande, football
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