SAITAMA, Japan — Defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande is on the brink of a group-stage exit in the Asian Champions League after a 1-0 loss to Urawa Reds on Tuesday left the big-spending Chinese club winless in four games.
Yuki Muto’s header in the 52nd-minute secured Urawa’s victory at home and moved the 2007 champions into second place in Group H with seven points, two behind Sydney FC.
Evergrande, coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, has two points and needs wins its last two games to have any chance of progressing in its bid for third Asian Champions League title in four seasons.
Brazilian midfielder Paulinho hit the post from eight yards, missing a chance to put Guangzhou in front early in the second half, minutes before Muto’s close-range header gave Urawa the lead.
Paulinho shot over the crossbar from Jackson Martinez’s cross in the 56th, failing to equalize in a contest Guangzhou needed to win.
In Sydney, forward Milos Ninkovic scored with his second touch from close range in 51st minute to give the hosts a 1-0 home win over the three-time champion Pohang Steelers, maintaining first place and needing only one point to ensure a spot in the knockout stage for the first time in three attempts.
“Good discipline, good effort and they played to the game plan,” Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold said of his team, which is languishing in seventh place in the Australian A-League. “I’m very happy for once in 10 weeks.
“We’re not there yet, I want us to finish on top of the group.”
In Group F, 2013 finalist FC Seoul was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Shandong Luneng, moving to 10 points and remaining three clear of the Chinese club.
Seoul defender Osmar Barba hit the post with a volley after 16 minutes and Shandong missed a chance when Gil headed pasted the post.
Seoul squandered late chances when Ju Se-jong’s shot from the edge of the area flew over the Shandong crossbar and Yun Ju-tae’s shot was deflected just wide.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima remained in contention with a 2-0 win at Buriram United, moving to six points as it extended the Thai club’s run to four straight losses.
In Group D at Jeddah, Brazilian striker Douglas scored twice as Al Ain moved into contention for a place in the knockout phase with a 2-1 away win over Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.
The win — Al Ain’s second in a row over the Saudi side — moved the inaugural ACL champions into second place on seven points, three behind leader El Jaish from Qatar, which played to a scoreless away draw with Uzbekistan’s Nasaf Qarshi.
Iranian side Zob Ahan is on top of Group B after a 5-2 home win over Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor. Danial Esmaeilifar and Vahid Mohammadzadeh scored first-half goals for the winners before Mahdi Rajabzadeh and Kaveh Rezaei ensured the win in the second.
Qatar side Lekhwiya beat Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr 4-0 at Doha after second-half goals from Nam Tae-hee, Alain Dioko, Chico Flores and Mohammed Muntari.
The result left Lekhwiya and Al-Nassr level on five points, three behind Zob Ahan, but Lekhwiya in second place holding a superior goal difference.
Bunyodkor is in last place in the group with two points from four matches.