KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Jorge Wagner scored one and created another as Kashiwa Reysol beat South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors 3-2 on Wednesday night to secure their passage into the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League.
Kashiwa scored a crucial 2-0 first-leg victory in Jeonju last week, and the former J. League champions won 5-2 on aggregate to put their name in the draw for the last eight to be made in Kuala Lumpur on June 20.
“We knew it was going to be even tougher than the first leg in South Korea,” said Kashiwa boss Nelsinho. “It was an aggressive match and made me tired watching it. Some of the referee’s decisions made it even more taxing,” he joked.
“But we have made the quarterfinals. The players took a while to get the right intensity. But after going behind we got into a rhythm at the end of the first half, and were able to control the game after that. I want to congratulate my players.”
Headers from Masato Kudo and Tatsuya Masushima in the first leg gave Kashiwa, Japan’s sole remaining representative in the competition, the chance to go one round further than they did on their ACL debut in 2012.
Just 10 minutes into the second leg at Hitachi Stadium, Wagner nearly put Nelsinho’s men in front, the Brazilian sending a shot fizzing just past the post after a knockdown from compatriot Cleo.
Jeonbuk had dominated long stretches of the first leg only to be thwarted by a string of superb saves from Takanori Sugeno, but the Kashiwa goalkeeper could do little to prevent the South Koreans from taking the lead after 22 minutes on a balmy night in northern Chiba Prefecture.
Jeonbuk had already hit the post through Kwon Kyung Won and they broke the deadlock when Eninho’s free kick into the box was turned in by Masushima.
It was a lively first half. Kashiwa moments earlier had been awarded a penalty after Jung In Hwan fouled Akimi Barada, only for the referee to change his mind after noticing a linesman had already flagged for a Kashiwa throw in.
Kudo’s seemingly goal-bound shot brought a magnificent save out of Kwoun Sun Tae on 31 minutes, but Kashiwa leveled to restore their overall two-goal advantage when Hirofumi Watanabe powered home Wagner’s leftwing cross.
Wagner all but killed the tie as a contest when he drilled in a low shot six minutes into the second half, and Kudo collected Hidekazu Otani’s perfect through ball to slot home the third midway through the second period.
“We won 2-0 away but they hit the post and the going was tough right from the start, so we are delighted that we have won through and made the last eight,” said Kudo. “We are proud we will be representing Japan in the quarterfinals and want to show Asia what Japan is capable of.”
Kevin Oris pulled one back for Jeonbuk with three minutes left, but it was scant consolation for the visitors.
Frontale into quarters
Kawasaki Frontale qualified for the Nabisco Cup quarterfinals by the skin of their teeth with a 1-1 away draw to Shonan Bellmare, coupled by Jubilo Iwata’s draw by the same score at home to Ventforet Kofu on Wednesday.
Yu Kobayashi leveled late for Kawasaki, after Shonan’s Daisuke Kikuchi opened the scoring shortly before halftime. Frontale went through as the runners-up from Group A alongside winners Yokohama F. Marinos, who won 2-1 at Shimizu S-Pulse.
Jubilo ended up third, a point behind Frontale.
Kashima Antlers and Cerezo Osaka qualified from Group B last week.
A win would have sent Kawasaki through regardless of the result of the Jubilo game, but coach Yahiro Kazama chose to leave Japan midfielder Kengo Nakamura and 2010 World Cup striker Yoshito Okubo on the bench at the start.
Kazama’s decision would haunt Frontale, who failed to click in the first half, when Bellmare — lagging 16th in the league with the worst goal difference — produced the better moments.
The hosts grabbed the lead five minutes before the interval, after Yuki Igari tested the reflexes of Kawasaki custodian Rikihiro Sugiyama to win a corner.
And Kikuchi made the most of it, rifling home his first goal of the competition from the edge of the box.
The halftime deficit prompted Kazama to bring on Nakamura and Okubo for the second half, when Frontale finally looked more like the team who have won four out of five with a draw in all competitions in May.
Shonan did everything they could to try to maintain their lead, but were broken in the 83rd minute as Kobayashi came up with the all-important equalizer.