The fourth round of the 2018 AFC Champions League saw Japanese clubs struggle to close out their respective matches, with no team earning full points and three others facing a difficult road to reach the knockout stage.
Kawasaki Frontale left Melbourne Rectangular Stadium with empty hands after a 1-0 loss to hosts Melbourne Victory after Kosta Barbarouses scored the game-winner in stoppage time.
The defending J1 League champions have earned just one point from their first four matches and will need to win their two remaining matches, at Shanghai SIPG and home to Ulsan Hyundai, to have a chance at escaping Group F.
Kashima Antlers looked confident at home after Mu Kanazaki scored the opener against Sydney FC in the 27th minute, but Matt Simon responded for the visitors midway through the second half to end the match in a 1-1 draw.
Antlers still lead Group H with eight points and could clinch a spot in the Round of 16 with a win on April 3 at Shanghai Shenhua.
Wednesday’s early match saw Cerezo Osaka draw 2-2 with Buriram United, failing to extract revenge for last week’s 2-0 loss in Thailand. Yang Dong-Hyun redeemed his early own-goal by scoring the first equaliser in the 65th minute.
But after Buriram retook the lead through Diogo’s 71st-minute effort it was Cerezo striker Kenyu Sugimoto whose 88th-minute goal was needed to preserve a point. Cerezo, in third place with five points in Group G, will need big results against Jeju United and Guangzhou Evergrande.
The late match on Wednesday was a nightmare for Kashiwa Reysol, who found themselves shorthanded at Kitchee following Masashi Kamekawa’s 15th-minute red card. Despite managing the lion’s share of possession and outshooting their opponents, the 2013 semifinalists rued their lack of finishing when Cheng Chin Lung scored the game-winner for Kitchee in the 92nd minute.
Reysol, in third place with four points in Group E, will end the campaign against leaders Jeonbuk Motors at home and second-place Tianjin Quanjian away.
The fifth round of the group stage will take place on April 3 and 4.