23.04.2019 16:08 h

Chinese giants Guangzhou pegged back by Melbourne second string

Fabio Cannavaro's Guangzhou Evergrande were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by an under-strength Melbourne Victory in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.

The former two-time Asian champions Evergrande dropped to second in Group F after Huang Bowen's 24th-minute strike was cancelled out by Jai Ingham's goal two minutes later.

Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima took advantage of the Chinese giants' slip-up to go top on nine points with a 1-0 win at Daegu FC in South Korea, courtesy of Hayato Araki's 34th-minute winner.

With Daegu, who host Melbourne next, just a point behind Guangzhou, who have seven points, Cannavaro's side now face a pivotal clash in Hiroshima in two weeks before the group finale against the Koreans on May 22.

Meanwhile Japan's Kawasaki Frontale gave themselves a qualification lifeline as they fought back from a goal down at home with nine minutes remaining to draw 2-2 with South Korea's Ulsan FC.

Leandro Damiao fired home an 81st-minute equaliser to revive Frontale's fading hopes of progress to the last 16 in Group H.

Star striker Yu Kobayashi opened the scoring for the home side after a corner in the eighth minute, but the Koreans struck back twice before half-time through Park Yang-woo's effort at the far post and Junior Negrao's run and shot.

Kawasaki piled on the pressure towards the end with Kobayashi guilty of the miss of the match in the second minute of stoppage time when he found himself unmarked with the goal gaping from six yards, but somehow hit the post.

Ulsan remain top of Group H on eight points -- with Shanghai SIPG and Sydney FC clashing in a later match -- while Kawasaki are not out of it, though lying bottom on four.

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat had opted to rest the likes of Japan superstar Keisuke Honda and big Swedish striker Ola Toivonen the A-League side's chance of qualification virtually gone.

Despite Cannavaro putting out the same XI that thrashed Victory 4-0 in China this month, the Melbourne young guns more than held their own until Brazilian Paulinho shrugged off two defenders and his clever cutback found an unmarked Huang, who had a simple tap-in.

Victory pressed from the restart and were quickly all square after a loose clearance by Guo Zhunyi fell to Ingham inside the penalty area who drove home powerfully.