Posted on May 15
Controversial Argentine Dario Conca scored an injury-time penalty on Tuesday to take mega-rich Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande into the AFC Champions League knock-out rounds.
Conca, whose club-imposed nine-match ban for criticising coach Lee Jang-Soo was lifted for the vital clash at Thailand's Buriram United, buried his spot-kick in the dying seconds to secure the 2-1 win.
The dramatic victory lifted Guangzhou into second spot in the now completed Group H behind Japan's Kashiwa Reysol, who eliminated ex-winners and last year's finalists Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0.
The script could not have been written better for Conca, who was banned for slamming Lee on his microblog account and is facing possible action by Asian soccer authorities for taking his baby onto the pitch before a game.
The attacking midfielder was transformed into one of the world's richest players when he became Guangzhou's record signing last year, and he has now scored five times to steer the Chinese champions into the round of 16.
But the result spelled disaster for 2006 victors Jeonbuk, who had been relying on Guangzhou losing or drawing after they were shocked 2-0 by Japan's Kashiwa.
The J-League title-holders headed to Jeonju knowing only a win would do, and they courageously delivered thanks to second-half goals from Leandro Domingues and Junya Tanaka.
Elsewhere, in Group G, Nagoya Grampus routed Central Coast Mariners 3-0 to kill off the Australian club's hopes. They were joined in the last 16 by 2010 Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, who beat China's Tianjin Teda 3-0.
In Nagoya, Japanese international Keiji Tamada rocked Central Coast when he scored from a free-kick on 19 minutes, before midfielder Jungo Fujimoto floated the hosts' second over Mariners' keeper Mathew Ryan in the 36th.
Brazilian-born Japanese international defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka headed Nagoya's third with three minutes left to complete a comprehensive win for the hosts.
"That was a very important game and it was a very good victory. I think everybody here was satisfied with the victory," said Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic.
"As you know the schedule is very tough and very difficult, so I gave some rest to the players, but I think we made a good performance and we played well."
Later on Tuesday Iranian side Piroozi secured their place in the knockout stage in impressive style coming away from Dubai with a 3-1 win over Al Shabab Al Arabi.
Piroozi's former Ireland Under-20 and now Libyan international striker Eamon Zayed opened the scoring for the Iranian side and brought them level before further goals by Mehrdad Pooladi and Gholam Badamaki sealed victory.
However, Piroozi were edged out as group winners as Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal took those honours when they beat Qatari side Al Gharafa 2-1 in Saudi Arabia to finish the group stage unbeaten.
Most knock-out spots were still up for grabs heading into Tuesday and Wednesday's final group games, with the top two in each pool qualifying for the one-off round of 16 matches later this month.