Western Sydney Wanderers delivered a seismic shock Wednesday when they sent title-holders and hot tournament favourites Guangzhou Evergrande crashing out of the AFC Champions League. The Australian debutants survived despite losing the quarter-final’s second leg 2-1, as they went through on away goals following last week’s 1-0 upset win in Sydney.
The surprise victory means Tony Popovic’s side become only the second Australian team to reach the AFC Champions League semi-finals, after Adelaide United accomplished the feat in 2008. Guangzhou’s FIFA World Cup?-winning coach Marcello Lippi, banished to the stands after angrily confronting last week’s referee, sat with a lit cigar as his title defence went up in smoke.
The Wanderers will next face last year’s runners-up FC Seoul, whose goalkeeper Yu Sang-Hun saved three penalties in a dramatic shoot-out to deny Korean rivals Pohang Steelers. Guangzhou were a weakened side,rs 07 accounts, missing three players through suspension as well as Italian maestro Lippi, who was punished for his angry reaction after two late red cards in Sydney.
But Italy forward Alberto Gilardino came within inches for the Chinese champions when his cushioned near-post volley rebounded off the crossbar from a tight angle. Elkeson should have levelled the tie at 1-1 on aggregate after he was sent crashing in the penalty area by Western Sydney’s Iacopo La Rocca.