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Soccer-Damjanovic strikes late to earn Seoul first-leg draw

Reuters

* Seoul peg back big-spending Guangzhou

* Return leg on Nov. 9 (Adds details, quotes)

Oct 26 (Reuters) - Dejan Damjanovic's late equaliser earned FC Seoul a 2-2 home draw against big-spending Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final on Saturday.

Guangzhou, coached by World Cup-winning Italian Marcello Lippi, appeared to be heading for victory until Montenegro striker Damjanovic slotted in a cross from Sergio Escudero with seven minutes remaining.

The same pair also combined in the Korean champions' opening goal in the 11th minute when Escudero calmly placed the ball past Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng Cheng after being set up by Damjanovic.

The Chinese side equalised in the 29th minute, much to the disappointment of the packed house at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, when Brazilian Elkeson headed in a corner for his fifth goal of the tournament.

China international Gao Lin made it 2-1 for Guangzhou, who are trying to become the country's first winner of the region's premier club tournament, by deftly diverting in a low cross just before the hour.

Brazilian striker Muriqui, the top scorer in the tournament with 13 goals, wasted two chances towards the end to grab the winner for Guangzhou while Damjanovic shot straight into the hands of Zeng from a one-on-one situation in injury time.

A win for Guangzhou, who will host the return leg on Nov. 9, will make Lippi the first coach to win both the UEFA and Asian Champions League titles.

"Two away goals are a very important factor for us, it's an advantage, but there's still another 90 minutes to play," said the 65-year-old Lippi, who won the European Champions League with Juventus 17 years ago.

"I believe we caused a lot of problems for their defence, the kind of chances that usually we score.

"Some players showed they weren't up to their usual capabilities, but I don't like to call out names."

Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo, who played for the national team at the 1998 and 2002 World Cup finals, was still optimistic of a good showing in the return leg.

"We made a few small mistakes and we conceded two goals. It was very unfortunate but we have the second leg to play," the 40-year-old said. "We have an opportunity to win the game in the second leg... we're never going to give up so we can do it.

"We have good strikers to score goals and I think we can score many goals in the second leg." (Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Justin Palmer)

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