Kashiwa Reysol moved a step closer to progressing from the AFC Champions League group stages with their determined 2-1 victory over Shandong Luneng on Wednesday.
Kosuke Taketomi fired Reysol into a deserved lead from a rebound in the 23rd minute as the hosts dominated, only for their Chinese opponents to reply through Walter Montillo in the second period.
But Naoki Wako’s 92nd minute header broke the stubborn resistance of the visitors, pushing the 2013 ACL semi-finalists to second in Group E and setting them up nicely for the 22nd April showdown with leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
“It was a tough game but our players were not afraid of taking risks and made great efforts today,” said coach Tatsuma Yoshida.
Goalkeeper Kazushige Kirihata and defender Tatsuya Masushima face two and seven months on the sidelines respectively after injuries picked up in this match, however.
Few words of praise went Urawa Red Diamonds’ way in their 2-0 defeat at Beijing Guoan, their third consecutive loss leaving the J.League leaders bottom of Group G.
Beijing’s Pablo Batalla and Yu Dabao struck twice in the final 15 minutes to expose a poor defensive display from the Reds.
“Though we lost the first two games, I hadn't felt we were the worse team. Today was the same, we were not the worst one on the pitch, but the reality is that we still lost,” sighed Mihailo Petrovic, whose side cannot afford any more slip-ups if they are to progress to the next stages.
Gamba Osaka and the troubled Kashima Antlers will likewise face similar tests to their mettle in their ACL games on Wednesday evening.
Japanese champions Gamba are seeking a win against Group F leaders Buriram United to show qualification is not out of their hands yet, while Kashima Antlers will hope to salvage a disastrous start to their season with a good showing at Guangzhou Evergrande.