BEIJING - Marcello Lippi hailed a "determined" Guangzhou Evergrande after they strode into their first AFC Champions League final and took a big step towards a famous trophy treble.
The World Cup-winning coach was buzzing with praise after the Chinese team took apart Japan's previously unbeaten Kashiwa Reysol 8-1 on aggregate in the two-legged semi-final.
Brazilian ace Muriqui hit two to reach a tournament record of 13 goals as red-shirted Guangzhou followed last week's 4-1 away win with a 4-0 thrashing at home late on Wednesday.
"In the away game, we showed a lot of authority and personality and we won that game 4-1," said the Italian, according to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) website.
"We were very determined tonight and we scored in the first half and then, in the second half, we got into our rhythm and we were solid in defence." Free-spending, and now free-scoring, Guangzhou are the first Chinese team to reach the Asian final since it was revamped as the AFC Champions League in 2003.
Dalian were the last Chinese side to get this far, in the 1998 Asian Club Championship, and China has not had a regional winner since Liaoning in 1990. Guangzhou, with 19 goals for and three against in their six knock-out games, will be favourites in the final against FC Seoul, who beat Esteghlal 4-2 on aggregate.
But Lippi said first up for Guangzhou, whom he steered to the domestic double last season, was retaining their Chinese Super League crown this weekend. On Sunday they will be hosted by Shandong Luneng, their nearest rivals in the league who are 11 points adrift with four games left to play.
"We are now going to think about Sunday's game and try to win the championship - and then we will focus on the (AFC) final," said Lippi. With Guangzhou also in the Chinese FA Cup semi-finals, Lippi is on course to pick up three trophies in his first full season with the team based in China's industrial south.