Football: Goalless stalemate sees Evergrande reach AFC Champions League final

OSAKA (AFP) - Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande reached the AFC Champions League final for the second time in three seasons after they drew 0-0 with Gamba Osaka on Wednesday.

The win handed the Chinese side a 2-1 aggregate triumph over the Japanese treble winners, though Evergrande could have extended their advantage from the first leg as Brazilian forward Elkeson squandered a pair of good openings on either side of half-time at the Expo '70 Stadium.

Evergrande's well-organised defence was, however, rarely troubled by the home side as they held on to their narrow lead to set up a meeting in the final against Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates.

Al Ahli, who reached the final on Tuesday after a dramatic 4-3 aggregate victory over Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia 4-3, will host the first leg in Dubai on Nov 7 with the return game in southern China on Nov 21.

Evergrande, winners in 2013 when they beat South Korean side FC Seoul on away goals in the final, led the semi-final 2-1 after a second-half header by captain Zheng Zhi from the first leg in Guangzhou three weeks ago.

Elkeson tried to build on the advantage, but his right-footed effort in the 43rd minute forced a smart save from goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi.

The Brazilian had another great opportunity to break the deadlock seven minutes into the second half when he was released in the left channel by Ricardo Goulart's excellent through ball but scooped his effort just over the crossbar.

Gamba had avoided elimination with three comeback wins during their run to the semi-finals but they struggled to find a way past the Evergrande defence during the opening hour.

They went close to a breakthrough in the 57th minute when Shu Kurata's cut-back from the right was punched away by goalkeeper Zeng Cheng before it could reach a lurking Patric.

Gamba displayed greater urgency after Japan striker Takashi Usami replaced Hiroyki Abe on the hour.

Kurata saw his effort on a quick counter blocked by a defender while Usami fired a low shot narrowly wide of the right post with six minutes left. But the home team could not find the crucial goal as Luiz Filipe Scolari's side hung on to clinch their place in the final.