Nagoya Grampus are going to the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League thanks to the heroics of Jakub Świerczok. The Polish striker brought Nagoya back from behind on two occasions, scoring a hat trick to beat Daegu FC and make them one of Asia’s final eight.
Daegu scored just four minutes in, but Świerczok answered before the quarter-hour mark. First, the striker won a dual at the edge of the box to keep the ball, then some quick passing saw the ball find Naoki Maeda in the box, whose gorgeous one-touch backheel pass set up Świerczok for the clinical finish.
The South Korean club was not deterred by Świerczok’s equalizer and came back with another goal to regain the lead. Nagoya are a defense-first team, but having been beaten twice, it was the attack that would have to beat Daegu in the second half.
Grampus were on the front foot after the break as they pushed Daegu back and in the 63rd minute it paid off. Some slick footwork by Ryoya Morishita gave Nagoya a chance down the left and Morishita quickly delivered a cross right onto Świerczok’s forehead to level the match once again.
Nagoya’s home fans were roused by the equalizer and kept the energy up as two minutes later, Świerczok struck again. This time he did it all alone, starting with some dirty work as he chased down a ball in the corner and outmuscled two Daegu defenders to steal the ball before driving towards goal and finishing brilliantly from a tight angle for the hat trick and lead.
Shinnosuke Nakatani added one more just to be sure with a good header from a corner kick for the 4-2 victory, but it was Świerczok who took all the headlines at Toyota Stadium.
While Nagoya moved one step closer to continental glory, the same was not true for the other two J.League teams in the knockout stages. Kawasaki Frontale played 120 minutes of scoreless football against the defending continental champions but ultimately lost to Ulsan Hyundai, as the K League’s top team prevailed on penalty kicks. Meanwhile, Cerezo Osaka were beaten by Pohang Steelers to leave Grampus as Japan’s lone representatives in the last eight.
Grampus will get their chance to avenge Cerezo’s loss, as they have drawn Pohang in the quarter-finals, set to be played on October 17th.