Guangzhou Evergrande have become the first Chinese team to win the Asian Champions League.
Guangzhou drew 1-1 with FC Seoul in the second leg of the final on Saturday to claim the title on away goals after the first game in South Korea ended 2-2.
The victory makes Guangzhou’s Italian coach Marcello Lippi the first coach to win the Champions Leagues of Asia and Europe, following his 1996 success with Juventus.
The 65-year-old Italian World Cup winner joined Guangzhou midway through the 2012 campaign and has since won back-to-back Super League titles and the Chinese FA Cup, but his side did lose to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad in the quarter-finals last year.
Guangzhou’s victory means they will be Asia’s representative at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco next month.
Brazilian striker Elkeson put the hosts ahead after 58 minutes, after the home team had controlled much of the game, sending the majority of the red-clad 58,000 capacity crowd at the Tianhe Stadium into raptures in Guangzhou.
Emulating Liaoning triumph
Dejan Damjanovic equalised for Seoul just four minutes later but the visitors could not find a winner and the final whistle sparked massive celebrations for Guangzhou.
Guangzhou, who were unbeaten at home in the AFC Champions League this season, have now fulfilled their goal of emulating 1990 Asian Club Championship winners Liaoning, having lost just once en route to the final largely thanks to 13 goals from Brazilian forward Muriqui.
Fans and even regional governments took to popular microblogging site Sina Weibo – China’s answer to Twitter – to rejoice in victory.
“After 24 years, the Asia cup has returned to China. Evergrande, this battle will live on in memories forever!” the government of the poor northeastern province of Jilin wrote on its microblog.
The Chinese Football Association wasted little time in expressing its congratulations on the achievement many hope will spark a resurgence in the game there after years of corruption had blighted its growth.
“This is the highest honour for Chinese football,” it said in a congratulatory message carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency. “We sincerely hope you keep working hard, but guard against pride and impatience.”