Kashima Antlers saw their hopes of progressing from Group H of the AFC Champions League go up in smoke on Tuesday with a 2-3 home loss to FC Seoul.
Toninho Cerezo’s side were in charge of their own fates and needed a win to move on to the round of 16 following Western Sydney Wanderers’ victory at Guangzhou Evergrande earlier.
But while Shuhei Akasaki appeared to put Antlers’ on the right path with his powerful strike from distance in the ninth minute, laxness at the back ultimately proved to be their undoing.
Lee Woong-hee was the first to capitalise late in the first half, thumping in Seoul’s equaliser from a corner, before Osmar Barba put the visitors into the lead from another ball into the box.
Antlers’ captain Gaku Shibasaki levelled the frantic encounter at 2-2 with a scrambled finish in the 79th minute, sparking hopes for a memorable victory.
But it was not to be as Seoul’s Mauricio Molina netted their clincher in the first minute of added time, leaving the home crowd wondering what could have been,
Antlers will nevertheless aim to re-qualify for Asia’s premier club competition next term, and currently lie in 10th place in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League.