Football: Holders Evergrande crash out of Asian Champions League in group stage

Ricardo Goulart (left) of China's Guangzhou Evergrande celebrates his goal with teammates against South Korea's Pohang Steelers in Pohang on April 19, 2016.
Ricardo Goulart (left) of China's Guangzhou Evergrande celebrates his goal with teammates against South Korea's Pohang Steelers in Pohang on April 19, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Defending title-holders Guangzhou Evergrande crashed out of football's AFC Champions League, after group rivals Sydney FC and Urawa Red Diamonds played out a goal-less draw on Wednesday.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's Chinese giants won their first game a day earlier - beating Pohang Steelers 2-0 - but it proved futile as Sydney and Urawa secured the top two spots in Group H with one match to spare.

Sydney reached the last 16 alongside 2007 champions Urawa, while Chinese domestic champions Evergrande were left licking their wounds after their earliest exit from the competition.

Evergrande won their second Asian title in three seasons last year and they spent big in the off-season, buying Atletico Madrid striker Jackson Martinez for 42 million euros (S$64 million).

But they will now have to watch as Sven-Goran Eriksson's Shanghai SIPG - featuring former Evergrande stars Elkeson and Dario Conca - lead the Chinese charge in the knock-out stages.

In a tense game of few chances, Tadanari Lee and Christopher Naumoff both had sight of goal in the first half before Shinzo Koroki nearly put Urawa in front in the 78th minute.

Koroki ran onto a slick back-heel from Lee but his low shot was brilliantly saved by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic to ensure the game finished 0-0.

China's Shandong Luneng progressed from Group F, after Diego Tardelli's 10th-minute header from a long-range free kick was enough to eliminate Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0.

Group F leaders FC Seoul beat Thailand's Buriram United 2-1 to confirm their place in the last 16, but Group E will go down to the wire in next month's final round of pool games.

Only two points separate the top three after China's Jiangsu Suning beat Vietnam's Binh Duong 3-0 to go second, and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors displaced leaders FC Tokyo with a 3-0 away win.