Antlers hammer Krung

by Gus Fielding

KASHIMA, Ibaraki Pref. — Kashima Antlers ended their six-match winless streak in emphatic fashion with an 8-1 drubbing of Thailand’s Krung Thai Bank in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.

Mitsuo Ogasawara masterminded Krung’s downfall, scoring one goal and setting up four more, while Takuya Nozawa and Danilo both hit doubles to keep the J. League champions firmly on course for a place in the quarterfinals.

With one round of matches left to play, Kashima leads Group F with 12 points from five games ahead of Chinese side Beijing Guoan, which plays Vietnam’s Nam Dinh in a later match.

Gamba Osaka could reach the last eight ahead of its J. League rival Kashima if it avoids defeat in another later kickoff away to Thai champions Chonburi in Group G.

After a red-hot start to the season, Kashima has fallen five points adrift of J. League-leaders Urawa Reds and came into Wednesday’s match seeking its first win in any competition since beating Beijing 1-0 on April 9.

But Daiki Iwamasa put Kashima back on the right track when he headed an Ogawasara corner in off the bar after 19 minutes.

Ogasawara was the architect for the second two minutes later from another set piece, the pint-sized midfielder sending a free kick into the area for Shinzo Koroki to glance past Klisana Klunklin, before Yuzo Tashiro powered home a header to make it 3-0 on the stroke of halftime.

Nozawa and Ogasawara shared two goals in the space of four minutes after the restart and Nozawa steered home Koroki’s cross for his second of the game on 66 minutes.

Substitute Danilo came off the bench to grab a late brace — both from Ogasawara deliveries — and take Kashima’s tally against Krung to 17 goals over two matches following a 9-1 away win in their opening Group F game in March. Peeraphong Pichitchotirat grabbed a consolation for the Thais deep into stoppage time.

“We were able to achieve our most important objective of taking three points and I’m delighted about that. The goal difference (over Beijing) should give us the advantage to top the group in our final match,” said Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira.

Ogasawara said, “I know our opponents were weak but we haven’t been getting good results in the J. League and hopefully we can start winning (in the league) again.”

Kashima and Gamba are both aiming to reach the knockout stage for the first time after they were eliminated in their only previous ACL appearances in 2003 and 2006, respectively.

Japan’s Urawa Reds receive a bye into the quarterfinals as defending champions.

Only the winners of each of the seven groups advance to the last eight of the tournament, which involves the league and cup champions of 14 countries.

The Asian champions earn a place in the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.