GUANGZHOU, China — Zheng Zhi scored the winning goal as Guangzhou Evergrande beat Gamba Osaka 2-1 in the first leg of the Asian Champions League semifinals on Wednesday.
Gamba welcomed the return of the J-League's top scorer Takashi Usami, who missed his team's 3-2 win over Jeonbuk Motors due to suspension
The visitors took a 1-0 lead following an own goal by Guangzhou defender Feng Xiaoting in the 12th minute at Tianhe Sport Center Stadium.
Patric nearly doubled Gamba's lead minutes later with a 22-yard effort that went wide of Zeng Cheng's left-hand post.
Huang Bowen equalized for the hosts 10 minutes before halftime, netting with a superb left-footed volley that beat Gamba goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi.
Guangzhou had the opportunity to take the lead just three minutes into the second half from Zeng Long's free kick that was just off target.
The hosts finally broke through with Zheng's 57th minute header that ensured Luiz Felipe Scolari's side will hold a slight advantage going into the return leg on Oct. 21.
Gamba manager Kenta Hasegawa was forced to watch from the stands after being sent from the touchline toward the end of the quarterfinal second leg win over Jeonbuk.