HONG KONG (Reuters) - Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho scored the only goal of the game as Guangzhou Evergrande emerged with a 1-0 win over Japan's Kashima Antlers in the first leg of their round of 16 meeting in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday.
Guangzhou, Asian champions in 2013 and 2015, dominated the game but had to wait until the 75th minute for the Brazil international to score from close range after the Kashima defence failed to clear Yu Hanchao's corner.
"Today we have achieved our target," said Guangzhou coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. "Kashima is a well-known, strong side. Probably because they were playing away, they were a bit conservative ...
"It was pretty tight, however most of the time we controlled the match. We had four or five good scoring opportunities. Today we have been outstanding, both in the performance and the result. However, this round isn't finished and they still have their chance."
Guangzhou were on top throughout in a game that saw the reigning Chinese and Japanese champions go head-to-head, only for the profligacy of Scolari's frontline to deprive Evergrande of a more significant margin of victory.
Ricardo Goulart, Ricardo Goulart and Li Xuepeng all squandered scoring opportunities before Paulinho gave his team a deserved lead and a one-goal advantage ahead of the second leg next Tuesday in Japan.
It was a mixed evening for Japanese clubs as Kawasaki Frontale came from going a goal behind to pick up a 3-1 away win over Thailand's Muangthong United as J.League clubs look to claim the title for the first time since Gamba Osaka's win in 2008.
Teerasil Dangda gave Muangthong the lead in first half injury time but two goals in three second-half minutes put Kawasaki in control.
Kengo Nakamura rolled his effort over the line in the 66th minute before Kengo Nakamura curling volley three minutes later gave Muangthong goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan little chance, and the J.League side secured a two-goal lead and three away goals ahead of the second leg when Hiroyuki Abe addeda late third.
Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong; Editing by Alison Williams