By Jon Day
TOKYO, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Kashiwa Reysol were dealt a 4-1 drubbing by China's Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the Asian Champions League (ACL) semifinals at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium in Chiba Prefecture Wednesday.
An impressive second-half goal rush by World Cup winning manager Marcello Lippi's men, now see the Chinese Super League's table-toppers with a good chance of reaching the ACL finals for the first time.
The home side took an early lead in the ninth minute against the run of play when Jorge Wagner's free kick found its way into the top left hand corner as Guangzhou keeper Zeng Cheng was left unsighted by Reysol's Cleo's attempts to get a glancing head on the ball.
But Marcello Lippi's in-form team, who top the Chinese Super League by 11 points and have their eyes set on winning the treble this year, including the FA Cup, rallied back and could've leveled the game when Muriqui hammered his shot against the woodwork with only the target to hit.
Zeng Cheng was called into action to keep the visitors in the game and his fine save from Junya Tanaka's effort kept hopes alive for Guangzhou going into the second half.
Nelsinho Baptista's team, who won the league title in 2011 here but are currently languishing in the 10th place in Japan's top tier, were kept on the back foot by a re-energized Guangzhou after the restart, and were punished in the 57th minute when the home side failed to clear their lines.
Sun Xiang's in-swinging cross from the left was poorly dealt with by Kondo who gifted the ball to a lively Muriqui who hammered it past Reysol keeper Takanori Sugeno and into the roof of the net.
Sugeno was beaten again in the 67th minute from a superb 20-meter drive from Conca, as the home side again failed to clear their lines, much to the delight of Guangzhou's fans who were out in numbers to support their team.
Guangzhou, the first Chinese team to reach the final four of the tournament since 2005, could have extended their lead moments later when Elkeson missed the target with only the keeper to beat, but spared his own blushes by neatly tucking away Conca's corner at the near post.
One minute into injury time and Marcello Lippi's men sealed the deal when Muriqui tapped home to the elation of the away fans.
Lippi said that his men performed well despite going one-nil down so early on.
"We picked ourselves up and played some good football. We hit the post and were unlucky not to score," the Italian said at a press conference after the game.
"In the second half we played very well and scored four goals and I saw a very good Guangzhou team play tonight," the manager said.
Kashiwa Reysol will now be hard-pushed in the second leg on Oct. 2 to prevent Guangzhou, who debuted in the tournament last year, becoming the first Chinese team to reach the final of the competition since Dalian Wanda in 1998.