Tianjin oust Evergrande to advance to Asian Champions League quarterfinals
Guangzhou Evergrande crashed out of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday evening as Fabio Cannavaro's side were eliminated by Tianjin Quanjian on the away goals rule following a 2-2 draw that takes the Chinese Super League side into the quarterfinals of the continental championship.
Ricardo Goulart scored twice for Guangzhou in front of their own fans at Tianhe Stadium but goals from Alexandre Pato and Wang Jie secured Tianjin's passage to the last eight for the first time in the club's history.
"Thanks to the support of our fans we have eliminated the strongest team in Asia," said Sousa after the game. "We have been improving all the time. We have done well in the group stage, in both points and the goals we scored, and I hope we can carry this success into the Chinese Super League and win the next game. I hope we can keep going like this."
The fixture was evenly poised after a scoreless draw in Tianjin last week and Evergrande took the initiative after 17 minutes when Goulart redirected the ball over the line after Zhang Lu had blocked Alan Carvalho's initial shot.
But just two minutes later Pato levelled for Tianjin when he headed home Axel Witsel's cross after an error in defence by Zhang Linpeng gifted possession in the penalty area to the visitors.
Three minutes into the second half Goulart struck again to put Guangzhou back in control of the game only for Wang to claim a crucial second for Tianjin, and on this occasion there was no way back for the two-time winners.
"We weren't focused enough after we scored," said Evergrande captain Zheng Zhi, who led the club to the title in 2013 and 2015. "This is how it is in football. If you lose your concentration for a second you concede.
"We created a lot of chances today but we only managed to score two, so we were very inefficient. Tianjin scored two out of their three or four opportunities.
"It's a shame we've been eliminated. We were the better side but they are the one holding two away goals. This is football. Life moves on and we have to accept the result."
Tianjin will be joined in next week's draw for the quarterfinals by two-time winners Jeonbuk Motors after the South Koreans overturned a 3-2 first leg deficit to notched up a 4-3 aggregate win over Thailand's Buriram United.
Choi Kang-hee's side claimed a 2-0 win in front of their own fans after Ricardo Lopes put Jeonbuk in front with a volley before Lee Jae-sung dipping free kick late in the game ensured the 2006 and 2016 winners progressed to the last eight.
Iran's Persepolis also secured their place in the quarterfinals following their dramatic away goals win over Al Jazeera of the United Arab Emirates, with Jalal Hossaini scoring in the final minute to ensure the Tehran club progressed following a 4-4 aggregate draw.
And Al Sadd will also be in the draw after two goals from Baghdad Bounedjah, who has now scored nine goals so far in this year's competition, helped the Qataris register a 4-3 aggregate win over Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia.