GUANGZHOU (Reuters) – Defending champions Kashima Antlers were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw with Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final in China on Wednesday.
Ryohei Shirasaki went closest to claiming an away goal for the Japanese side, who won the title for the first time last year, only to hit the crossbar with two minutes remaining, leaving the tie delicately poised ahead of the second leg in Kashima next month.
“I knew it would be tough today and I wanted us to score an away goal, but we couldn’t make it,” said Kashima coach Go Oiwa.
“The score was 0-0 and when we get back to Japan we will need to refocus our minds and look forward to the next game.”
Hot and humid conditions at Guangzhou’s Tianhe Stadium hampered both sides, with an entertaining opening half hour giving way to more measured performances as the game wore on.
Brazil-born striker Elkeson was making his first appearance for Evergrande in the Asian Champions League since returning to the club, where he won the continental title in 2013 and 2015, from Shanghai SIPG.
Yet his influence was limited against a well-drilled Kashima defence, which gave little away despite the quality of Guangzhou’s attack.
Guangzhou’s former Benfica winger Anderson Talisca tried his luck from range on several occasions while ex-Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was subdued by his usual standards as Kashima did enough to keep Evergrande at bay.
“Our opponent showed a good performance this evening and they had a clear target and that was not to lose a goal by the way they set up at the start of the game,” said Evergrande head coach Fabio Cannavaro.
“We were a little bit slow to pass the ball from back to front.”
The teams play again on Sept. 18, with the winners facing either Shanghai SIPG or Urawa Red Diamonds in the semi-finals. Their encounter on Tuesday ended in a 2-2 draw.
In the west of the continent, Saudi Arabian duo Al Ittihad and Al Hilal also drew 0-0 in their first-leg encounter in Jeddah on Tuesday.
The two teams will meet again on Sept. 17, with the winner facing either Al Nassr – also from Saudi Arabia – or Qatar’s Al Sadd.
(Editing by Toby Davis)