JEONJU, South Korea (AP) — Defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande thrashed Cerezo Osaka 5-1 in a show of force to kick off the knockout rounds of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday night, while three-time winner Pohang Steelers had a 2-1 comeback win at K-League rival Jeonbuk.
Marcello Lippi's Evergrande lineup has an enormous advantage ahead of the return match in China next week, with progression to the quarterfinals almost certain after the lopsided result in Osaka.
Elkeson and Muriqui each scored twice for the Chinese Super League powerhouse and Gao Lin added another, while Italy international Alessandro Diamanti was instrumental in creating attack opportunities for Evergrande.
Muriqui ran onto a Diamanti pass to score the first goal in the 22nd minute and, after Ariajasuru Hasegawa equalized in the 30th, Elkeson scored twice within four minutes to make it 3-1 before halftime.
China striker Gao made it 4-1 in the 78th and Muriqui finished off with six minutes remaining with a goal from close range.
In a South Korean derby featuring two former Asian champions, Jeonbuk opened the scoring with Lee Jae-sung's header in the 53rd minute but Son Jun-ho equalized five minutes later.
Go Moo-yul's strike in the 74th-minute gave the Steelers the narrow win and a psychological edge at home next week with a spot in the quarterfinals at stake. Pohang is aiming for its sixth quarterfinals appearance in the continental championship, and a record fourth title.