KAWASAKI — Fringe player Jong Tae Se scored two late goals as Kawasaki Frontale beat South Koreans Chunnam Dragons 3-0 to move within a whisker of becoming the first-ever Japanese team to qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League.

News photoKawasaki Frontale forward Juninho (left) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal in the
first half of the Asian Champions League match against South Korea’s Chunnam Dragons at Todoroki Stadium
in Kawasaki. Frontale won 3-0.

Juninho brought relief to the spartan crowd on a muggy evening at Todoroki Stadium with the opening goal on 25 minutes. Kengo Nakamura teased the Chunnam backline before sliding a delightful through ball into the path of Kazuhiro Murakami who crossed from the left, Magnum fluffing the first chance before his fellow Brazilian bundled in the loose ball.

Jong, in for Kazuki Ganaha whose reported intravenous drip prior to the match contravened FIFA rules, made sure of a victory Kawasaki never looked like letting slip on 81 minutes, when he was presented with a simple tap in by Juninho after the Brazilian had left two defenders with twisted blood after some devilish trickery on the left.

Juninho then collected a ball from Magnum on 86 minutes and crossed, again from the left, for Jong who forced the ball over the line despite the efforts of ‘keeper Kang Min Soo.

“This is the first game I have started this year and I am so happy I was able to play well,” Jong said. “As a Korean resident of Japan I feel like I have to prove myself and so I was happy that I was able to do that today.”

Ugly scenes marred the end of a match that had a niggling undercurrent throughout, when Kim Seong Jae’s frustrations boiled over, the Chunnam midfielder assaulting tormenter-in-chief Juninho on the left touchline with a disgraceful lunge. Both sets of players became involved in a distasteful melee, but Kim received only a yellow card for his sins.

Unfashionable Frontale will do what more glamorous J. League clubs have failed to do and become the first club to advance to the second stage since the competition’s inception in 2002 if they avoid a two-goal defeat in their next game at home to Arema Malang on May 9. Head-to-head results count ahead of goal difference in the competition. Frontale beat Arema 3-1 away.

Frontale has 10 points after four matches. Arema Malang beat Bangkok University 1-0 to move off the bottom of Group F and now have four points, the same as Chunnam, although the South Koreans’ interest in the competition is over, as is Bangkok University’s.

“There were quite a few players who I wanted to use but weren’t able to,” said Frontale coach Takashi Sekizuka. “Throughout the game we were able to help each other out.”

In Group E, Urawa Reds, handed their first defeat of the J. League season by Frontale on Saturday, were held to a 0-0 draw away to Shanghai Shenhua and Holger Osieck’s men are still unsure of advancing to the knockout stage. Captain Nobuhisa Yamada was given his marching orders 15 minutes from time in the game because of apparent time wasting.

The Reds have eight points from four games and sit at the top of Group E, with Sydney FC second on seven points and Indonesia’s Persik Kediri on six. Sydney beat Persik 3-0 on Wednesday. Shenhua are out of the competition.

Chances were conspicuous by their absence in a tepid opening period for both teams in front of a shade over 10,000 fans in Kawasaki. Magnum had the first of few noticeable chances on 10 minutes, Jong feeding him on the left for a first-time left-footer that Kang plucked out of the air.

A jaunty looking Jong was looking Frontale’s man most likely in the first half and the forward fizzed a low shot against Kang’s upright from 25 meters later in the half, before Nakamura collected a Juninho pass on the edge of the area and quickly changed his feet to sell Lee Jun Ki a dummy only to scuff his shot wide of the goal.

Both teams slept walk through the majority of the second period. Chunnam had the ball in the Kawasaki net from a free-kick, but the referee spotted something untoward happening in the wall.

Things were quiet until the explosive Juninho powered his way through the South Koreans’ defense just after the hour mark, before blasting his shot high and wide. But the Brazilian then turned provider and Frontale increased both their lead and chances of advancing to the knockout stages of the tournament.

“We approached this game knowing we had to win,” Chunnam coach Huh Jung Moo said. “We knew we had to be aggressive. . . and since we weren’t in the first half we had to change our formation in the second. The opposition played well and perhaps some of my players were a bit confused (by the changes I made).”

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