Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao won their second AFC Champions League title in three years following a 1-0 victory over Al Ahli on Saturday.
A tense first leg ended 0-0 two weeks ago and opportunities were scarce in this fiercely-fought contest, but Elkeson’s clever finish ultimately made the difference as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side claimed the trophy.
Salmeen Khamis was sent off in the second half for Ah Ahli for a stamp on Zheng Long, while Majed Hassan was also fortunate to receive just a booking for a studs-up challenge, but the UAE side created plenty of nerves among the home faithful as they pressed for a late goal.
But Guangzhou held on to secure the triumph and book their place in the Club World Cup finals to be held in Tokyo next month.
Al Ahli were forced to play much of the first leg with 10 men and were fortunate to escape another sending off early on in China, when Hassan was only booked after scraping studs down the shin of Long.
Chances were few and far between in the early stages but Al Ahli’s Lima brought the first meaningful save of the match out of Zeng Cheng, as he rasped a shot from the right of the box on the counter-attack which the goalkeeper saved well.
Huang Bowen then came close for the home side, turning sharply and curling a shot narrowly wide of the near post, as the Guangzhou fans began to turn up the volume inside the Tianhe Stadium.
Guangzhou were dealt a blow when Zeng had to be replaced by Li Shuai after landing awkwardly when coming out to punch clear, but they continued to enjoy the greater possession and looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
Nine minutes after half-time, they did just that. Long fed the ball into Elkeson from the right, and the Brazilian spun cleverly into space – with a little help from a deflection – before prodding the ball beneath Ahmed Mahmoud and into the far corner.
The game had threatened to boil over at times and Al Ahli’s frustrations got the better of them on 66 minutes, when Khamis was issued a straight red card after stepping on Long, having pulled him to the ground.
Long’s reaction was a little theatrical but Khamis had to be forcibly dragged down the tunnel by substitutes and coaching staff after being shown the red card, having initially refused to leave field before kicking a water bottle high towards the stands.
The task appeared beyond Al Ahli but they almost snatched a goal in the closing stages as Lima raced in behind the backline, but his shot was blocked by the covering Kim Young-gwon and looped just over the bar after rebounding off the Brazilian.
Al Ahli poured men forward in the closing minutes but Guangzhou defended stoutly and, though Elkeson blazed over on the break late on, the Chinese champions sent the home fans into raptures as the final whistle sounded.
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