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Lippi pledges no let-up

Updated: 2013-10-02 07:36
By Agence France-Presse in Singapore ( China Daily)

Marcello Lippi has pledged no let-up from a rampant Guangzhou Evergrande as the Chinese champion looks to sweep into its first AFC Champions League final on Wednesday.

The World Cup-winning coach watched as his South American-inspired attack scored four second-half goals against Kashiwa Reysol to win last week's semifinal first leg 4-1 away from home.

But Lippi said Guangzhou, dubbed "the Manchester United of Asia", will not ease up in the return fixture as it bids to confirm itself as China's first finalist in 15 years.

"We are still on the way to moving on to the next stage. But we want to win to advance to the next round," said the veteran coach.

Since Dalian Wanda was runner-up in the 1998 Asian Club Championships, the Champions League's predecessor, no Chinese club has reached the final.

But Guangzhou has established itself as favorites to win this year's competition, a feat that would end China's long drought stretching back to Liaoning's victory in 1990.

Since topping a tough Group F, Guangzhou has cruised through the eliminators scoring 15 goals in its five knockout games so far, against only three conceded.

Lippi pledges no let-up

On Saturday, the team from China's industrial south notched four more goals in a 4-0 win against Hangzhou Greentown to stay 11 points clear in the domestic league with a game in hand.

Although Lippi said he's not complacent about reaching the two-legged final, it would be surprising if he had not already run the rule over Guangzhou's potential opposition.

South Korean champion FC Seoul holds the edge over Esteghlal after its 2-0 home win last week, but it will be wary ahead of this week's away leg at Tehran's intimidating Azadi Stadium.

Led by Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic and Colombian midfielder Mauricio Molina, Seoul has the tools to get the job done against the Iranian titleholder.

But Seoul will rue several missed chances at the end of the first leg, while Esteghlal will take heart from some close opportunities of its own.

"When we go to Tehran, everything will be different," warned FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo, in a press release from tournament promoters.

"The altitude will have an effect with the ball bouncing differently and with the shooting speed. This is something that we have to think about and prepare for."

The two teams have previously met at this stage, but at that time both the competition and FC Seoul, then playing as Anyang Cheetahs, had a different name.

In what could be an omen, the South Korean team ousted Esteghlal on that occasion, in the 2002 Asian Club Championship semifinals, when it went to the Azadi Stadium and won 2-1.

(China Daily 10/02/2013 page11)