Guangzhou sink Mariners to reach Asia's last eight

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande marched into the AFC Champions League quarter-finals and underlined their strong title credentials with a convincing 3-0 win over Central Coast Mariners on Wednesday.

Goals from Muriqui, Dario Conca and Gao Lin took Marcello Lippi's team through with room to spare, as Japan's Kashiwa Reysol also swept into the last eight with a 5-2 aggregate win over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Guangzhou, 2-1 winners in last week's first leg, are now into the quarters for the second straight year as they target China's first Asian title since 1990. And they will remain one of the favourites after another impressive performance.

The hosts had to wait only seven minutes to open their account, when Gao's instinctive flick released Muriqui in the box and the prolific Brazilian rolled it past Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan for his eighth goal of the tournament.

Argentine maestro Conca was causing havoc and after teasing the Mariners defence on the edge of the area, his pullback to Muriqui drew a clumsy challenge from Bernie Ibini-Isei and a penalty.

Conca stepped up for the spot-kick, on the stroke of half-time, and his left-footed strike curled low and to the goalkeeper's right to make it 2-0 and effectively kill off the Mariners' hopes.

With celebrations already under way among the large and boisterous Tianhe stadium crowd, Ryan denied Muriqui and Gao early in the second half.

And Gao's efforts paid off on 68 minutes when he was set up by Conca for Guangzhou's well-taken third, despite the Mariners' protests that the Chinese forward had strayed offside.

Chances were at a premium for the visitors but substitute Oliver Bozanic blazed over and defender Feng Xiaoting had to clear another effort off the line. And in the dying seconds, Daniel McBreen's header was flagged off for offside.

Earlier Kashiwa, with a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, came back from a goal down to win 3-2 in the return game and eliminate 2006 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

The result maintains Japanese interest in the competition and with the loss of Jeonbuk, the only former winners still standing, it ensures the 10th different champion in 11 editions of the Asian tournament.

Kashiwa had their hearts in their mouths when defender Tatsuya Masushima put the ball in his own net on 22 minutes. But Hirofumi Watanabe connected with an inviting Jorge Wagner cross to restore parity just before half-time.

Wagner was on target six minutes after the break, and Kashiwa were all but there when Masato Kudo fired in a low shot to make it 3-1 on 69 minutes.

Kevin Oris grabbed a late consolation for the visitors but Jeonbuk, who were also runners-up to Al Sadd two years ago, finished the tie well beaten.

Qatar's Lekhwiya drew 2-2 with 1991 and 2000 Asian Club Championship winners Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia to reach the quarter-finals on a 3-2 aggregate.

Senegalese striker Issiar Dia put the Qataris ahead added after 14 minutes with Mohamed Musa making it 2-0 on the night after 52 minutes.

The Saudis fought back with Salman al-Faraj and Mohammed al-Shalhoub, with a penalty, levelling the score on the night.

But Lekhwiya hung on to reach the last eight for the second successive season.

Iran's Esteghlal and Al Shabab Al Arabi of the UAE drew 0-0 but the Iranian side went through 4-2 on aggregate.

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