Diamanti sparkles in Guangzhou comeback win
China's Guangzhou Evergrande Alessandro Diamanti (C) takes a shot at goal against Australia's Melbourne Victory at the Tianhe Sport Center in Guangzhou, southern China's Guangdong province on February 26, 2014
In a dream debut, the 30-year-old Italian international inspired a rousing second-half comeback as the Marcello Lippi-led Chinese champions opened their trophy defence in style.
The departure of influential midfielder Dario Conca had raised questions about Guangzhou but his replacement, Diamanti, quickly settled those doubts with a memorable performance at a packed Tianhe stadium.
First-half goals from Pablo Contreras and Leigh Broxham threatened a huge upset in Group G but after the break, Guangzhou scored four sparkling goals in 26 minutes through Huang Bowen, Elkeson and Diamanti.
Both sides had early chances with Victory's Mark Milligan and Guangzhou Evergrande forcing top-drawer saves at opposite ends of the pitch around the quarter-hour mark.
Victory got their opener on 36 minutes, when a Jesse Makarounas free-kick from the left was poorly dealt with, Kosta Barbarouses fired in a shot and Contreras tapped in the rebound.
The goal stunned Guangzhou and their massed ranks of red-clad fans, but there was worse to come just five minutes later -- and again from the delivery of Makarounas, also from the left but this time from a corner.
Again the high ball was not cleared and Broxham was perfectly placed to lash home a superbly controlled volley from the edge of the box and give the visitors a shock 2-0 lead at half-time.
However, Lippi's men returned from the break fired up and a dipping Diamanti free-kick drew a diving header off the line from Contreras.
Diamanti had a hand in Guangzhou's first goal when he fed Luo Jiacheng for a cross which was emphatically volleyed into the net by Huang, a goal which was every bit the equal of Broxham's strike earlier.
And the Italian made it 2-2 when, after timid defensive work from Victory's Adama Traore, he turned and hammered a fierce shot on his favoured left foot past static goalkeeper Nathan Coe.
Brazilian striker Elkeson put the champions 3-2 ahead when he brilliantly controlled a long, high ball from the halfway line on his chest and squirmed a low shot through the legs of Nicholas Ansell.
Victory looked a beaten team but Diamanti made sure of the win when he effortlessly shimmied past Contreras and prodded a pin-point strike inside the far post with the toe of his left boot.
Earlier Australian debutants Western Sydney Wanderers had a harsh welcome to the competition when they threw away an early lead to lose 3-1 at home to 2012 champions Ulsan Hyundai.
The Wanderers scored after just 42 seconds at home through Brendon Santalab, but the South Koreans punished defensive mistakes to score through Kim Shin-Wook, Ko Chang-Hyun and Kang Min-Soo.
"Three mistakes and we got punished for three goals," Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said. "We learned out of tonight that at this level you'll be punished for any mistakes, and we were punished tonight."
Also in Group H, Brazilian midfielder scored from a first-half free-kick as Japan's Kawasaki Frontale kick-started their campaign with a 1-0 home win over Guizhou Renhe of China.
And in Wednesday's other Group G game, 2006 winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors scored three times in 10 second-half minutes as they beat Japan's Yokohama F. Marinos 3-0.
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