• Kyodo

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Japanese interest in the Asian Champions League ended in the group stage again Wednesday after J. League champions Yokohama F. Marinos were beaten 2-1 away to China’s Shandong Luneng Taishan in Group F.

Yokohama needed to take all three points against the China Super League side to have any chance of advancing to the last eight and Daisuke Nasu gave it hope by heading Takeshi Okada’s men into the lead after seven minutes.

But China international Zheng Zhi eliminated Yokohama by netting twice, with the winner coming deep into second-half stoppage time to book his side’s place in the quarterfinals. BEC Tero Sasana tied 2-2 away to PSM Makassar of Indonesia in the other Group F game.

The result saw Shandong take an unassailable lead at the top of the table on 15 points, six clear of Yokohama with just one game left to play. No Japanese team has progressed beyond the group stage since the Asian Champions League was launched in 2002.

Only the top team from each group advances to the quarterfinals taking place in September.

“We had chances when the game was tied at 1-1 but we didn’t take them and that’s why we are out,” Yokohama manager Okada said.

“We have had a grueling schedule and battled to get this far but now it’s over but we hope to be involved in this tournament again,” he said.

Yokohama’s match in Jinan was held amid tight security following a series of anti-Japan rallies in Chinese cities last month, which included the pelting of Japanese diplomatic facilities with rocks and water bottles.

Leao staying at Vissel

SAO PAULO (AP) Emerson Leao said Wednesday that he had rejected an offer to replace Argentine coach Daniel Passarella at the helm of three-time Brazilian national champion Corinthians.

Leao, currently coaching Vissel Kobe, said that Corinthians and team partner Media Sports Investment offered him the job on Tuesday.

“I was invited (to be Corinthians’ coach),” Leao said. “But I can’t leave Japan right now. I have a contract until Jan. 1 and I intend to honor it until the end.”

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