Kawasaki Frontale are headed to the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League after clinching first place in their group with a match to spare.
Frontale defeated Johor Darul Ta’zim on Matchday 5 in a dominant 5-0 performance. Akihiro Ienaga scored after just five minutes, then four different goal scorers found the back of the net after halftime to wrap up yet another win for Toru Oniki’s side.
The win pushed Frontale to a perfect 15 points from five matches in the group stage. Not only has that secured them first place in Group I, but their 15 points and +11 goal difference makes them the top team in the entire tournament to this point.
Ventforet Kofu continued their fine AFC Champions League by drawing Melbourne City to remain top of Group H. Jumma Miyazaki played the role of hero, heading home in the 85th minute to secure Ventforet the 3-3 draw at the Japan National Stadium.
Ventforet are level on points with Melbourne City atop the group, but have the edge on goals scored. That puts the pressure on them to deliver three points next week in Thailand against Buriram United as the Meiji Yasuda J2 League side look to keep their dream run going.
The Tricolor now find themselves tied on points with Incheon for second place in Group G, but they have lost the tiebreaker. They play first place Shandong Taishan in Yokohama on the final day of the group stage, offering them an opportunity to make their way through to the round of 16.
Urawa Reds entered Matchday 5 with no chance to win their group and in need of a win to give themselves a chance of advancing as a second place, and that is exactly what they got. Alexander Scholz scored the opening goal, only for Wuhan Three Towns to equalize, then José Kanté buried a shot from 18 yards in the 90th minute to take three points and remain alive heading into the final matchday.
The AFC Champions League group stage concludes next week with all four J.League clubs back in action. Kawasaki Frontale have nothing left to play for, having already taken care of business, but Ventforet Kofu, Yokohama F·Marinos and Urawa Reds will all be playing for a spot in the round of 16. It’s going to be a dramatic finish in the pursuit of Asian glory.