KAWASAKI – Ryota Oshima’s first goal in the Asian Champions League gave Kawasaki Frontale a much-needed 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers in Group H on Tuesday.
Labinot Haliti opened the scoring for Western Sydney shortly before the break, but captain Kengo Nakamura leveled for the hosts on the other side of halftime before Oshima won it in the dying minutes from 25 meters out at Todoroki Stadium.
Kawasaki, on six points with two games to play, is one behind South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, who were away to China’s Guizhou Renhe in a later match. Wanderers are ahead of Frontale on total goals scored.
“I hesitated for a second but I decided to go for it,” Oshima said of his 88th-minute goal. “I’m glad it went in.”
The J.League’s other team playing on the evening, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, drew 2-2 at FC Seoul after Rafael equalized for the hosts in the 94th minute following the sending-off of Hiroki Mizumoto.
Hiroshima is one of three clubs on five points in Group F. Central Coast Mariners top the table by a point.
Wanderers’ three-time World Cup midfielder Shinji Ono said Tony Popovic’s men should have left the ground with at least a point in hand.
“We played the way we wanted to in the first half,” Ono said. “We scored and held up defensively. It’s a little disappointing the way things turned out.”
“They really know how to move the ball around. It was difficult trying to keep up with them.”
With just three points from their first three games, Kawasaki was badly in need of victory to keep its last 16 hopes afloat.
Frontale saw far more time on the ball but to Western Sydney’s credit, it rarely had a clear look at the target during the first half.
The visitors made good on the one chance they had in the 24th minute, when Dean Heffernan curled a left-wing corner for the far post for Haliti to nod past goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe.
Kawasaki’s search for the equalizer would run into the second half and it nearly found it after 48 minutes, but defender Antony Golec cleared off the line to keep Western Sydney in the lead.
Wanderers custodian Ante Covic palmed away a stinging free kick by Renato on the hour and a minute later, Yasuhito Morishima hit the bar in yet another near-miss for Frontale.
But Western Sydney’s luck ran out in the 74th minute as Nakamura’s deflected effort from a tight right angle restored parity before Oshima fired the winner with just two minutes left on the clock.
“It’s a very disappointed dressing room at the moment,” said Popovic, who was at Sanfrecce during his playing career. “The boys played fantastically well and it was disappointing to concede from such a distance.
“We’ve competed twice against them now, and it’s a shame we couldn’t walk away with a result. We found it difficult to hold the ball or control the game at times but you expect that.”
On Wednesday, Yokohama F.Marinos host Melbourne Victory in Group G as the Emperor’s Cup holders fight for their first win. In Group E, Cerezo Osaka travel to Thailand to face Buriram United.