|Kashima Antlers enjoy their win - Photo from AFC Champions League Twitter|
Sanfrecce Hiroshima scrape through
The sides from China, Japan and South Korea run out deserved winners to enter the group stages of the Champions League. Although in the case of Sanfrecce Hiroshima the side who run Kawasaki Frontale the closest for the J League title race it was not to be plain sailing.
This was seen with the J League runners-up being taking to penalties by Thailands Chiangrai United who qualified for the Champions League by winning the FA Cup in their home country for the second year in a row. It was to be a game in which the Hiroshima side scraped through but the match was not as dull as the goalless scoreline might suggest.
A lack of goals in a match can mean a severe absence of action but that was not to be the case here as the crowd of only 2,570 were treated to an entertaining encounter. The first bit of drama came within ten minutes also as the home side from the J League missed a penalty. This happened when new signing Yusuke Minagawa hit a very poor penalty. The result was that the keeper in goals for Chiangrai United Saranon Anuin had an easier task and made a good save from the spot kick.
The home side had a host of chances too in the 90 minutes and with 61% possession and 12 shots in which seven where on target the game should have been over in normal time. The inability to be clinical in front of goal could have cost them too as the Brazilian, Bill had a great chance near the end to win it for the Thai side.
The home side also had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside in extra time when Patric another Brazilian had the ball in the net. It was to be the hosts who did, in the end, run out winners in an exciting penalty shootout that ended 4-3 with three miss penalties in total.
Then with the win, a place in Group F awaits for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Champions League where they will face Daegu, Guangzhou Evergrande and Melbourne Victory.
Life is easier for the Champions
Kashima Antlers the Asian Champions League winners made life easier for themselves as they run out 4-1 winners against Australian side Newcastle Jets. It was to be a good day at the office for the J League side, again in front of a small crowd this time of 5,477.
The game could of taking an all different turn though when Irish man Roy O'Donovan let fly from 25-yards early on. The ex Hibernian amongst others man shot was well saved by Kwoun Sun-Tae in the Antlers goal in the end, however.
First blood then went to the home side as they took the lead on 18 minutes from debuted Sho Ito. The goal came in lucky fashion as it somehow squirmed to the feet of Ito. The lead did only last five minutes though with Ronald Vargas equalising for the Australians.
Despite the quick response, the J League side was back in front on 32 minutes, this time with the goal coming from the head of Shuto Yamamoto. After this point with Antlers looking to defend their title, the side did not look back.
Kashima Antlers then put the tie to bed in the second half with a double from Serginho. As a result of this, they will be in Group E with Gyeongnam, Johor Darul Ta'zim and Shandong Luneng.
Life made easy for the CSL and K League sides
The two sides from the J League made life hard for themselves at times in their bid for the Champions League group stages. Although in truth for the Chinese Super League and K League side Shandong Luneng and Ulsan Hyundai life were easier.
Although in the case of Shandong Luneng the third-place side in the CSL last season it could have been so different. This was seen with Ha Noi the sides opponents from Vietnam taking the lead before half time through forward Nguyễn Văn Quyết.
Although it looked like the Chinese team did not like going in behind at half-time as they scored four second-half goals from Liu Junshuai, Graziano Pelle, Liu Binbin and Zhou Haibin. The result meant that Shandong Luneng will also be in Group E with Gyeongnam, Johor Darul Ta'zim and Kashima Antlers.
Meanwhile, Ha Hoi in their debut in the Champions League will now get the consolation of the AFC Cup. A competition you feel they could have every chance of winning after this display.
Then to K League Ulsan who had the task of taking on Perak who had previously knocked Hong Kong side Kitchee out on penalties.
Ulsan did not have much trouble though against the Malaysians as they run out 5-1 winners with goals coming through an own goal by Amirul Azahan and then a double from Diskerud. Lee Dong-Kyung and then Junior Negao finished off a professional performance. Although Nazirul Naim picked up a consolation for the away side on 90 minutes.
The result means that Ulsan will join Kawasaki Frontale, Shanghai SIPG and Sydney FC in Group H.