GUANGZHOU, China, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Guangzhou Evergrande reached the last 16 of the AFC Champions League after overcoming Daegu FC 1-0 here on Wednesday, thanks to a goal from Paulinho.
In a must-win match without top-scorer Anderson Talisca, Paulinho stood out to save the team with a header just after the hour mark.
"The team united as one and showed the fighting spirit, this is why we could win this crucial match," Guangzhou Evergrande's coach Cannavaro said in the post-match press conference.
"We had pushed ourselves to the limit without our top-scorer." The Italian added.
Pualinho tested the keeper in the 10th minute with a right-footed shot from right side of the box. Cesinha's effort from left side of the box went wide of the goal in the 29th minute. Guangzhou's keeper Liu Dianzuo saved Kim Dae-won's shot outside of the box in the 34th minute. One minute later, Zhang Linpeng had chance to break the deadlock but his header went directly into the keeper's gloves.
The home side had been desperate for a goal after Wei Shihao and Yang Liyu missed their chances to score, until Paulinho headed Huang Bowen's fine corner cross into the back of the net in the 64th minute. Daegu tried to pull level but Cesinha and Tsubasa Nishi's efforts missed the target.
Guangzhou finished second in the group to reach the last 16, they will face Chinese rivals Shandong Luneng in the first round of the knockout stage.
"Hopefully our injured players could fully recover, the good news are we will have a short break in early June before the match against Shandong." Cannavaro said.
In the other match, Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Melbourne Victory 3-1 to top the group, setting up an all-Japanese clash with the Kashima Antlers in the elimination phase.