Captain Shinzo Koroki struck five minutes after the break to put Urawa Reds into the final of the AFC Champions League with a 3-0 aggregate win over Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday.
The Japanese side, who led 2-0 from the semi-final first leg at home, will play Saudi giants Al-Hilal in the final of Asia’s premier club competition next month over two legs.
Guangzhou’s defeat will pile the pressure on their coach Fabio Cannavaro, a World Cup winner as skipper of Italy in 2006.
In an open first half at a capacity Tianhe Stadium in southern China, Guangzhou’s Brazilian attacking midfielder Anderson Talisca had four chances to open the scoring.
The former Benfica star’s best chance came when he rattled the bar as the Chinese Super League (CSL) leaders ramped up the pressure.
Cannavaro’s side were open at the back however and Yuki Abe had an excellent chance to put the tie out of sight, but his first-time snapshot was well saved by Zeng Cheng.
On 35 minutes Elkeson, China’s Brazilian-born striker — wearing bandaging on his bloodied head — had a sniff of goal with a weak header.
Then Talisca saw his smart swivel and left-footed strike smack off the woodwork.
Urawa, below mid-table in the J-League, will have been relieved to reach the break with their 2-0 aggregate lead just about intact.
- Liverpool get off to nightmare Champions League defence against Napoli
- Champions League: Lampard ‘confident’ his youngsters can pass Ajax test
Talisca had another sight of goal just after the break.
But then came the sucker-punch, Daiki Hashioka going down the right wing before standing up a cross for the 33-year-old striker Koroki to dart in and head home.
It was the veteran’s eighth goal in the Champions League this season and kept Urawa on course for a third Asian title.
Tempers threatened to boil over after that with Guangzhou’s Brazilian international midfielder Paulinho taking centre stage in several flare-ups.
A frustrated Talisca was booked.
Guangzhou’s exit means that Cannavaro, 46, will need to deliver the CSL title if he is to stand any chance of holding onto his job.
Guangzhou lead the domestic league by three points from reigning champions shanghai SIPG, but their form has stuttered of late.
There are only four matches left in the CSL season and Cannavaro’s men face SIPG next month in a potential title-decider.