HONG KONG (Reuters) - Fabio Cannavaro is torn by the prospect of facing his old club Tianjin Quanjian in the knockout rounds of the Asian Champions League after the Italian successfully steered his Guangzhou Evergrande side into the last 16 on Tuesday.
A 3-1 win over Cerezo Osaka, courtesy of a second half brace from Alan Carvalho, saw the two-time champions finish in first place in Group G and set up a meeting with the runners-up in Group E.
Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea and Tianjin have sealed the top two spots in that group and will play Kitchee from Hong Kong and Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol respectively on Wednesday to decide first and second place.
“I’ll be very happy to go back to Tianjin but I’m not too happy to be their rival,” said the Italian, who led Quanjian to third place in last year’s Chinese Super League to qualify for the continental championship.
“I know Tianjin Quanjian very well, I’m very familiar with them and some of their tactics and techniques. But it will not be an easy game.”
Guangzhou only needed a draw to secure their place in the next phase and took the lead through Huang Bowen after just six minutes. However, Cerezo struck back four minutes later through Takaki Fukumitsu.
Carvalho, though, put the Chinese champions back in front when he slipped the ball home from a tight angle on the turn before putting the result beyond doubt four minutes from time.
Evergrande are joined in the next round by Thailand’s Buriram United, who capitalised on Cerezo’s loss to jump into second place with a 1-0 win over Jeju United from South Korea.
Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri scored the only goal of the game from close range as the Thais advanced to the knockout stage for the first time since 2013. They will likely face two-time champions Jeonbuk.
Suwon Bluewings, meanwhile, pinched first place in Group H from under the noses of Japan’s Kashima Antlers as Dejan Damjanovic scored the only goal for the Koreans against the J-League side.
Sydney FC’s 0-0 draw with already-eliminated Shanghai Shenhua in the group’s other game meant the Australians also exited the competition.
In the west of the continent, Morteza Pouraliganji scored the only goal as Iran’s Persepolis handed Al Sadd from Qatar a 1-0 defeat that ensures Branko Ivankovic’s team finished in first place in Group C.
Persepolis are joined in the round of 16 by their cross-Tehran rivals Esteghlal, who topped Group D ahead of former champions Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates with a 1-0 win over last year’s beaten finalists, Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia.
Al Ain secured second spot with a 4-1 thrashing of Qatar’s Al Rayyan.
Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge