Nemanja Gudelj scored his first goal for Guangzhou Evergrande as the two-time Asian Champions League winners moved a step closer to the knockout rounds with a 2-0 win over South Korea's Jeju United on Wednesday evening.
The Serbia midfielder smashed his rising shot into the top corner from the edge of the area to give Guangzhou the lead before Alan Carvalho claimed his eighth goal in seven games in all competitions.
Gudelj has come under scrutiny since joining Guangzhou in the winter as the replacement for Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, who left midway through last season to join Barcelona, but coach Fabio Cannavaro defended the former Ajax midfielder.
"I've never compared Gudelj with Paulinho and I won't do that in the future," Cannavaro said. "Gudelj had tendinitis in his Achilles when he arrived here. He was a bit late and he didn't do 100 percent of our winter training.
"Now he has started to settle in and I'm very happy for him. He has worked very hard and goals are always the best payoff. His position has been changed and he needs to run a lot in midfield. I don't think one goal is enough for him. We will need more and I believe he can deliver."
The win moves Guangzhou on to eight points from four games and a win over Thailand's Buriram United in their next game on April 3 will take the seven-time Chinese Super League winners into the last 16.
"We have focused a lot on improving our concentration in away games," said Cannavaro, whose side have now won their last three games in all competitions after a faltering start to the season.
"In the last game we conceded too soon due to a loss of focus, but this time, you could see all of the players have shown their desire to win. We can't sit back and relax just because we have won so many titles. We need more championships, and in this match, we were all determined and confident."
Buriram are in second place in Group G following their 2-2 draw with Cerezo Osaka on Wednesday, with the Japanese side rescuing a point thanks to Kenyu Sugimoto's 88th-minute equaliser.
On an impressive night for Chinese clubs, Tianjin Quanjian notched up a 4-2 win over two-time champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, with goals from Anthony Modeste and Alexandre Pato in the final six minutes earning Tianjin all three points.
Wang Yongpo gave Tianjin the lead after just eight minutes before Kim Shin-Wook levelled for Jeonbuk. Zhang Cheng headed the home side back in front 10 minutes in the second half only for Adriano to score.
The game looked destined for a draw but Modeste netted six minutes from time before setting up Pato to put the result beyond doubt deep into injury time.
Jeonbuk lead Group E despite seeing their perfect record end and are still two points clear of Tianjin, who are on seven points from four games.
Kitchee pulled off the surprise of the night, however, when a goal two minutes into injury time from Cheng Chin-Lung saw off 10-man Kashiwa Reysol. It was the first win by a club from Hong Kong in the group stages of the Asian Champions League.