KASHIWA, Japan — Former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho gave his new-look career a boost on Tuesday by scoring a stunning long-range goal as Guangzhou Evergrande of China reasserted its status as the team to beat in the Asian Champions League.
Paulinho, who joined the Chinese Super League side in June after a disappointing spell in the Premier League, scored the visitors' second goal in the 40th minute of the quarterfinal first leg as Guangzhou beat Japan's Kashiwa Reysol 3-1.
He slammed home an unstoppable free kick from 35 meters (yards).
"I was surprised because it was the first free kick in my life," the 27-year-old Paulinho said. "I never take free kicks because it's not my job. But I just thought I will try and see what happens, and then scored for sure the best goal of my life."
Kashiwa, hoping to avenge an 8-1 aggregate thumping by Guangzhou at the semifinal stage in 2013, got off to a disastrous start — going a goal behind in just the fifth minute when center back Daisuke Suzuki headed Huang Bowen's free kick into his own net.
Paulinho doubled the lead before Gao Lin made it 3-0 in the 58th, heading another Huang delivery beyond Reysol goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno.
Masato Kudo claimed Reysol's consolation goal from close range in the 89th minute.
In the other quarterfinal Tuesday, Carlos Eduardo scored two goals as Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, last year's beaten finalists, defeated Qatar's Lekhwiya 4-1 at Riyadh.
Khalid Kaabi and Ailton also scored for Al Hilal. Youssef Msakni's goal gave the Qatar champions some hope going into the second leg at Doha next month, but the Saudis are again big favorites to qualify for the semifinals.
In the other quarterfinals on Wednesday, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea hosts Japan's Gamba Osaka and Naft Tehran plays Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates at the Iranian capital's Azadi Stadium.
The second legs will be played Sept. 15 and 16. Semifinals are scheduled to begin at the end of September and the two-leg final on Nov. 7 and 21.