(Reuters) - Big-spending Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande strolled into the final of the AFC Champions League by beating Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol 4-0 at home on Wednesday to complete a 8-1 aggregate thrashing.
Guangzhou are the first Chinese side to reach the final of Asia’s premier club competition but they had their South American attacking trio to thank for the achievement with Elkeson, Muriqui and Diego Conca scoring the goals.
Another eye-catching win for Guangzhou, led by Italian World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, only adds to their favourites tag for the two-legged final which starts later this month and secures a berth at the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup.
Esteghlal of Iran host South Korea’s FC Seoul in the other semi hoping to overturn a 2-0 first leg loss when they meet in Tehran later on Wednesday.
Trailing 4-1 from the first leg, Kashiwa faced an uphill task to make it through at the Tianhe Stadium and the home side were unwilling to give them any encouragement in the quest for four goals.
Brazilian Elkeson looked like he had headed the Chinese side in front in the 14th minute but his effort was ruled out for a slight push on the defender. The disappointment was short-lived, however.
The forward was afforded far too much space and time in the six yard box to lash home just two minutes later after an in swinging corner fell to him.
The goal killed the contest but encouraged an open, attacking match with both sides having numerous chances in front of an appreciate crowd decked out almost entirely in the red of Guangzhou.
The Japanese enjoyed a sustained period of pressure at the start of the second period, but it was the home side who doubled their lead when Argentine Conca was another to benefit from some slack marking to head home a cross from substitute Rong Hao in the 57th minute.
Tournament top scorer Muriqui then added his 12th and 13th goals of the campaign to complete the rout.
The Brazilian took a pass from Conca in the 79th minute and fired a right foot shot low into the corner of the net before the Argentine sent him sprinting clear to round the goalkeeper and tuck home another three minutes from time.
The win keeps Guangzhou on course for a unique treble as they boast a healthy 11 point lead in the league and are through to the Chinese FA Cup last four.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore, editing by Pritha Sarkar