Matchday 4 was a smashing success for most of the Meiji Yasuda J.League teams in the AFC Champions League. Three of the four Japanese clubs picked up wins and sit top of their groups, putting themselves in terrific position to advance to the knockout stages of the continental championship.
Ventforet Kofu entered the day three points back of the top spot, but rose to the top with a tremendous performance. Peter Utaka raced in behind the Zhejiang defense to put the J2 side up after 17 minutes, then Getulio got on the end of a cross just before halftime to double the lead. A goal by the Chinese side cut the lead to 2-1, but Ventforet hit for two more to secure a dominant 4-1 win.
Ventforet’s win, combined with Melbourne City’s loss in the other Group H fixture, lifted the Japanese club to the top spot in the group. They are level on points with Melbourne, but hold the tiebreaker ahead of the massive clash between the two sides next matchday.
Yokohama F·Marinos picked up a similarly important win, striking late to beat Kaya FC. The two sides traded first half goals before an 82nd minute red card reduced the Filipino side to 10 men. That allowed the Tricolor to get on the front foot and Yan Matheus finished beautifully two minutes from full time to deliver Marinos the victory.
Marinos now sit on nine points from four matches, level with Shandong Taishan on points in Group G, but ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Making matters better, the Tricolor host the Chinese club in the return leg, putting them in good position to make their way to the knockout stages.
Kawasaki Frontale have been the best club in the competition and that continued on Matchday 4. A double by former Frontale star Chanathip Songkrasin was not enough for BG Pathum United, who were overwhelmed by the Japanese powerhouse. Yasuto Wakizaka scored twice to lead the way for Frontale, who rolled to a 4-2 win that puts them on a perfect 12 points in Group I with a chance to clinch first place next matchday.
Urawa Reds didn’t have the same good fortune as their Japanese counterparts. A 72nd minute red card put the Reds on the back foot and a stoppage time goal by Pohang Steelers earned the Korean side a 2-1 win. Pohang Steelers clinched first place in Group J with the win, but Urawa can still fight for a second place finish that may earn them a place in the knockout stages.
The next AFC Champions League matchday is set for November 27-29, when Ventforet, Marinos and Frontale can all clinch first place in their respective groups.