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June 26, 2019

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Penalty drama as Evergrande edges Luneng to reach ACL last 8

Zhong Yihao netted the decisive spot-kick as Chinese giant Guangzhou Evergrande reached the AFC Champions League quarterfinals after a nerve-shredding penalty shootout against Shandong Luneng last night.

Brazil’s Paulinho scored twice as the second leg ended 4-4 on aggregate after extra time, but it was Zhong who struck the killer blow as Evergrande shaded its Chinese rival 6-5 on penalties.

The 2013 and 2015 winner reached the last eight alongside reigning champions Kashima Antlers, who squeezed past fellow Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima on away goals.

Evergrande was in the driving seat after its 2-1 home win in last week’s first leg, and Paulinho put it on cruise control when he struck in the 13th minute.

The ex-Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was on hand to stab home the rebound when Yang Liyu’s shot cannoned off the base of the post.

However, Shandong rallied in the second half, substitute Zhou Haibin getting the breakthrough from a corner when he nodded home at the back post in the 62nd.

Eight minutes later, Marouane Fellaini showed his quality when he controlled the ball on his chest and shot on the turn, firing Shandong into a 2-1 lead.

At 3-3 on aggregate and an equal number of away goals, it forced extra time and it was Shandong which struck again when Liu Junshuai scrambled the ball in after a goalmouth melee. But Paulinho curled a pinpoint free kick to leave it 4-4 on aggregate and set up penalties, which went to 5-5 before Evergrande’s Liu Dianzuo saved from Cui Peng, opening the door for Zhong to net the winner.

In Hiroshima, Shoma Doi scored in each half as Kashima lost 2-3 but finished 3-3 on aggregate, going through with its two away goals which followed last week’s 1-0 win at home.

The title-holder came under sustained pressure before Doi gave it the lead against the run of play when he pounced on a weak defensive header 12 minutes before halftime.

Sanfrecce got a lifeline when Tomoya Inukai headed into his own net in the 63rd, before Sho Sasaki smashed a second goal for the host at the near post.

But at 2-1 on the night and with the aggregate scores level, Sanfrecce goalkeeper Hirotsugu Nakabayashi was sent off for bringing down Doi.

And in the final minute, as Sanfrecce poured forward in search of a third goal, Doi launched a first-time shot from distance into an empty net.

Brazilian Patric scored an injury-time penalty to make it 3-2 to Sanfrecce but it wasn’t enough.


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