Alan Carvalho's brace lifts Guangzhou Evergrande to ACL knockout rounds
Alan Carvalho struck twice in the second half as Guangzhou Evergrande eventually saw off an understrength Cerezo Osaka to advance to the knockout rounds of the Asian Champions League with a 3-1 win.
Huang Bowen gave Evergrande the lead after just six minutes, but Cerezo, without many of their key performers, levelled just four minutes later when Takaki Fukumitsu beat the Guangzhou offside trap to score.
But goals in the 57th and 86th minutes from Carvalho saw Evergrande finally brush aside Yoon Jong-Hwan's side and secure top spot in group G and a place in the knockout rounds for the sixth time in seven years.
"I'm quite satisfied with our performance in Asian Champions League so far," Evergrande coach Fabio Cannavaro said. "In the first few games we conceded some late goals, so we weren't able to qualify until the last round.
"But I am quite happy we could make it with 12 points. Now it is time to move on and think about the next match."
That next game could be against Tianjin Quanjian, who sit in second place in Group E behind Jeonbuk Motors with only their match against Kashiwa Reysol, who have already been eliminated, remaining on Wednesday.
Tianjin are assured of a place in the round of 16 but face a difficult challenge to overtake Jeonbuk at the top. Jeonbuk, the two-time champions, are due to host Kitchee, who were hammered 6-0 when the teams met in Hong Kong earlier in the tournament.
A draw will be enough for Jeonbuk to finish first and set up a meeting with Buriram United in the next round after they took second in Group G ahead of Cerezo.
"I'll be very happy to go back to Tianjin but I'm not too happy to be their rival," said Cannavaro, who led Quanjian to third place in the Chinese Super League last season.
"I know Tianjin Quanjian very well. I'm very familiar with them and some of their tactics and techniques. But it will not be an easy game."
Buriram joined Evergrande in the round of 16 with a 1-0 win away against Jeju United thanks to a solitary goal from Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri. The Thai Premier League champions qualified for the knockout rounds for the first time since 2013.
Suwon Bluewings, meanwhile, moved into first place in the final standings in Group H as a Dejan Damjanovic goal saw them seal a 1-0 win over Kashima Antlers, who will face Shanghai SIPG in the round of 16.
Suwon's win also ensured Sydney FC could not advance as they struggled to a 0-0 draw against a weakened Shanghai Shenhua.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch