Antlers fall just short in ACL with thrilling 4-3 defeat

Antlers fall just short in ACL with thrilling 4-3 defeat

Kashima Antlers played out an epic against Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday, only losing 4-3 to the Group H leaders.

The J.League giants had all their games entering this fixture and their hopes took an early hit when Ricardo Goulart scored the opener for the hosts.

Yet Hiroyuki Takasaki and Shoma Doi turned up with goals either side of half time to put the Antlers into an unexpected lead and show there was still fight left in the struggling side.

The events galvanised the visitors for a stretch but they were powerless to prevent Goulart’s second plus goals from Elkeson and Zhao Xuri who put Guangzhou 4-2 up at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium.

Gaku Shibasaki’s stoppage time header was Kashima’s attempt to reply but the 4-3 final scoreline still leaves them bottom of Group H and on the brink of elimination.

“We just couldn't convert our chances into goals,” lamented coach Toninho Cerezo, summing up a dire start to the 2015 season.

Gamba Osaka fared little better in their 1-1 draw with Buriram United, throwing away a golden opportunity to move off the bottom of Group F by capitalising on Guangzhou R&F’s earlier defeat.

Hiroyuki Abe put the J.League champions into the lead with a predatory finish but Gamba failed to hold out and were pegged back by Theerathon Bunmathan’s free-kick.

“I must say that the situation is tough but with one win, we can get on the right track,” Kenta Hasegawa reflected, although his side have yet to fully convince this term.

Kashima Antlers next play Guangzhou Evergrande on 7 April, with Gamba to play in Thailand against Group F’s leaders on the same day.