|Zhang Linpeng (Front, R) of Guangzhou Evergrande competes during the 2013 AFC Champions League final between Guangzhou Evergrande and FC Seoul in Seoul, South Korea, on Oct. 26, 2013. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)
By Sportswriter Wang Haoming
SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande took a huge step to gift China the first continental title in 23 years as they grasped two away goals in a 2-2 draw over FC Seoul in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final here on Saturday.
As one of the world famous coaches, Lippi had collected many trophies in Italy, Europe and world. Now, he is half step away from leading a Chinese team, the first foreign club in his coaching career, to the Asian top podium.
Although Sergio Escudero's 12th minute goal handed the South Korean side a dreaming start, Brazilian striker Elkeson scored the equalizer on 30 minutes. Gao Lin put Guangzhou's nose in front just before the hour mark, but Montenegrin striker Damjanovic rescued the home side 10 minutes before the final whistle.
Lippi said, "The match was well fought and the result was quite fair for both two teams. For my team, a couple of players got injured.
"I am not saying satisfied or not. Two away goals are important, it is an advantage for us. However, we still have 90 minutes to play," the 65-year old Italian said.
The Italian would not deny it is at least an acceptable result for his team, especially considering they got a goal down early in the game.
"FC Seoul is a good team, and they have a strong attacking half. We created a lot of chances, but we didn't score so many as usually we completed," said Lippi.
In fact, none of the Evergrande players have previously played in an AFC Champions League final though Huang Bowen was unused substitute for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors when they lost to Al Sadd in the 2011 final.
Huang missed the chance for gifting Guangzhou the lead in the 9th minute as he hit the ball off the bar. Seoul's counterattacks came earlier than Guangzhou as Sergio Escudero put the home side in 1-0 lead on 12 minutes. Guangzhou found the equalizer as Elkson headed to the back of net after Huang's curving corner in the 30th minute.
"I was nervous in the first 20 minutes. Afte all, it was the final I never experienced before," said Guangzhou striker Gao Lin.
It would be a perfect result for Guangzhou if the game ended in 80 minutes. However, Damjanovic saved the home side.
"It was a tough match as you expected to see in the AFC Champions League final," said FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo.
"We prepared to win but we drew in our home game. We have an opportunity to win the game in the second leg; we can score more goals than tonight in the away match and we will never give up," said the 40-year old South Korean.