Both Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou Evergrande needed penalties to win their Asian Champions League round of 16 ties after thrilling encounters.
Facing the daunting prospect of twice-ACL winners, and current Korean Champions Jeonbuk, reigning CSL victors Shanghai SIPG had their goalkeeper Yan Junling to thank after an impressive penalty save saw Shanggang through.
The all-Chinese affair in Jinan was also decided on spot-kicks, with Shandong winning 3-2 on the night – 4-4 on aggregate. Cui Peng saw his spot kick saved by Liu Dianzuo before Zhong Yihao stepped up and coolly slotted home to win it for Fabio Cannavaro's side.
Jeonbuk (2)1-1(2) Shanghai SIPG (3-5 on Penalties)
China’s number one Yan Junling was the hero for Shanggang as his superb penalty save from Jeonbuk’s Lee Dong-gook sent the South Koreans packing.
The striker had been subbed on in the last moments of extra time and was the first taker for the twice Champions League winners, but Junling, coached by former Spurs and England keeper Ian Walker, guessed correctly and made a fine stop down to his right.
It was five perfect penalties for SIPG, as Hulk, Elkeson, Odil Akhmedov and Wang Shenchao all converted from the spot, before ex-Chelsea midfielder Oscar fired home to send Vítor Pereira’s side through to just their third ever ACL quarter finals.
With the tie level at 1-1 after last week’s game at the Shanghai Stadium, SIPG knew that they had to score due to the away goals rule.
Brazilian forward Hulk scuffed in the all-important goal after eighty minutes, bundling home a layoff from compatriot Elkeson.
The goal wasn’t the full story for Hulk on the night though. Deep into extra time, the powerful front-man hit the bar after a rapid counter attack from the Chinese side which would have surely won it at such a late stage.
That strike completed an unwanted hat-trick of being denied by the woodwork for Hulk, after hitting the post twice earlier on. Two low drilled efforts had left Jeonbuk goalkeeper Song Bum-kuen stranded with the post coming to his rescue.
The second saw the ball fall to Oscar six yards out, but the midfielder was unable to sort his feet out and could only find the travelling Shanghai contingent in the stands.
The Green Warriors had gone 1-0 up on the night and 2-1 up on aggregate after an early Kim Shin-wook volley at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
The 6ft5 target man had done brilliantly to find some space and turn a dangerous Son Jun-ho cross past Yan Junling, but this was the best that it got for the gigantic talisman.
Midway through the first half of extra time, the forward missed a gilt-edged chance as he headed a glorious cross wide. Yan Junling was beaten in the Shanggang goal, but luckily the powerful header flew wide of the near post.
Tempers flared before the spot kicks, as Jeonbuk winger Moon Seon-min lashed out after a Li Shenglong challenge and received his marching orders from referee Alireza Faghani.
The decision in truth looked harsh, but José Morais’ side were reduced to ten just before Yan Junling’s heroics.
SIPG are through to the quarter final stage where they will meet either Kashima Antlers, Urawa Red Diamonds or fellow Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande, who needed penalties to beat Shandong Luneng at the Jinan Olympic Sports Center.
Watch highlights of the game below (VPN off):
Shandong Luneng (4)3-2(4) Guangzhou Evergrande (5-6 on Penalties)
Liu Dianzuo guessed correctly to deny Cui Peng’s crucial spotkick, sending the two-time champions through to the last eight.
Zhong Yihao scored the all-important penalty, as six perfect penalties from the Canton side sent Shandong Luneng crashing out of the ACL.
The result ended Guangzhou's run of successive defeats by Chinese opposition in the AFC Champions League knockout stage. With the result, Evergrande progress to the quarter final stage for the sixth time in the last eight years.
Heading into the second leg at the Jinan Olympic Sports Center, Guangzhou led 2-1 and looked like they were in for a straightforward passage to the last eight when Brazilian superstar Paulinho struck home from close range to make it 3-1 on aggregate, just 13 minutes in.
That was until the 62nd minute, when coach Li Xiaopeng’s substitution proved to be a masterstroke. Just six minutes after coming on, Zhou Haibin nodded home from close range after Brazilian defender Gil had risen highest to head Hao Junmin’s out swinging corner goalward.
Just eight minutes later the game was spun on its head. Shandong were suddenly ahead on the night after a moment of pure brilliance from ex-Manchester United man Marouane Fellaini. Controlling a long ball on his chest, the Belgian then pivoted and fired a low driven shot past Liu Duanzuo.
With neither side able to score again, the game went into extra-time. Just three minutes into the first period of extra-time, Liu Junshuai forced home after a lapse in concentration in the Evergrande defence proved costly.
For the first time in the tie, Shandong were ahead on aggregate, with Fabio Cannavaro questioning his teams defending once again.
Needing a hero with the pressure at its highest, Paulinho once again answered Evergrande’s call. Down 4-3 on aggregate, the Brazilian wonderfully fired a 25-yard free kick into the top corner leaving a hapless Wang Dalai distraught in the Luneng goal.
As penalties loomed, it seemed for all the world that Gao Lin would fire Guangzhou into the next round but with the goal gaping he could only fire straight at Wang Dalai.
Watch highlights of the game below (VPN off):
Paulinho put the huge goal down to his big game experience with Barcelona and Brazil, commenting: “I suppose it may be because I have played in many major tournaments and big games previously.
“In those kinds of environments, you need to commit your full ability in these major games. I am just glad that I could take part in this big match and help my teammates.”
The Quarter Finals' first legs will take place on Aug 27-28 with the second legs being held on Sep 17-18.
[Cover Image via Xinhua]