SYDNEY: Guangzhou Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi exploded in rage after the Asian champions had two players sent off in the dying minutes of their 1-0 first leg loss to Western Sydney Wanderers in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals yesterday.
The World Cup-winning former Italy coach charged on to the pitch to remonstrate with Emirati referee Mohammed Abdulla Hassan Mohamed after midfielder Gao Lin had followed defender Zhang Linpeng in being shown a straight red card.
Tomi Juric was credited with the winner on the hour mark but the scenes just before the final whistle, with players and coaches pushing and shoving in a crowd around the officials, might have more far-reaching repurcussions.
Zhang was dismissed for an elbow on Mark Bridge after 88 minutes and Gao followed in stoppage time after being adjudged to have fouled Brazilian Saba.
Lippi was still fuming in his post-match press conference, accusing the Wanderers players of theatrics to get his players sent off and the referee of chiding the home side like naughty children rather than reaching for his cards.
“The first one I didn’t see very well but the second one was right in front of me and was not a red card,” he said through a translator.
“You know me from the World Cup and the Champions League, I am not like this, I am an educated man. I know I shouldn’t go on the pitch but I just wanted to ask him to explain his decision.”
Lippi was further enraged when he was stopped from seeing the referee after the match and finished addressing the media standing up and emitting a stream of Italian that neither his English or Mandarin translator could keep up with.
“I didn’t want to talk about winning the World Cup or anything, I just wanted to ask him for an explanation,” he said.
Wanderers manager Tony Popovic said it had been a “fantastic” win for his team given they were still in pre-season and had no sympathy for Lippi.
“I don’t know what he’s so upset about,” he said. “We all disagree with decisions but we do it from the touchline. But you can’t have coaches going on the pitch and manhandling players.”
The A-League side certainly gave no quarter in defence and got sharper the longer the match went on to run out worthy winners in front of a noisy crowd of 17,093 at Parramatta Stadium.
They had to ride their luck at times but Guangzhou’s attack of former Italian internationals Alessandro Diamante and Alberto Gilardino and prolific Brazilian Elkeson failed to click.
The Wanderers came out strongly in the second half and got their reward when Antony Golec cut in from the left wing and hit a cross-shot from the edge of box which eluded Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng and rolled into the net with the lurking Juric claiming the final touch.
Guangzhou continued to create half chances at the other end but Lippi looked on in vain for a moment of class from his expensively assembled strikeforce and ultimately the frustration clearly got the better of him.
The return leg takes place in Guangzhou next Wednesday with the winners facing FC Seoul or Pohang Steelers in the semi-finals.