• Kyodo

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Brazilian striker Marquinhos grabbed a hat trick as Kashima Antlers signaled their continental ambitions with an emphatic 9-1 win away over Krung Thai Bank in their Asian Champions League opener on Wednesday.

Takuya Nozawa and Yuzo Tashiro both helped themselves to doubles on Chula Stadium’s artificial pitch while Daiki Iwamasa and Ryuta Sasaki were also on target for the J. League champions in the Group F meeting in steamy Bangkok.

It proved to be a night of mixed fortunes for Japanese clubs in Asia’s premier club competition as Gamba Osaka was held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Thai champion Chonburi FC in Group G.

Arthit Suntornphit looked to have given Chonburi all three points after netting just before the hour mark but Lucas struck in the fifth minute of injury time to spare Gamba’s blushes.

“Pathetic,” said defender Satoshi Yamaguchi of Gamba’s performance. “We wanted to be aggressive but it didn’t work out. It’s not a question of how tough Asian football is, tonight was more about how lame we were,” he said.

The result left Gamba two points adrift of Australia’s Melbourne Victory FC, which ran out a 2-0 winner over South Korea’s Chunam Dragons.

In Bangkok, Japan striker Tashiro gave Kashima the lead from close range after 15 minutes before defender Iwamasa headed home to double his side’s advantage soon after.

Antlers went in leading 3-0 at the interval after Nozawa hammered home his first of the game on 35 minutes and two goals early in the second half from Marquinhos and Tashiro killed off the Thais.

Kassim Kone pulled one back for the home side on 63 minutes before Marquinhos completed his hat trick with a quickfire double. Sasaki added the eighth for Kashima and Nozawa wrapped up the scoring with the ninth in injury time.

“It was a tough match and obviously we are delighted to have won our opening game by such a big margin,” said Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira.

Tashiro added, “It’s difficult to acclimatize to the heat and the humidity here but we managed to get an early goal and were able to settle down and carry the game. It was nice to get two goals but at the end of the day it was a team effort.”

Wednesday’s match was Kashima’s first in the Asian Champions League since itwas eliminated in the first round of the 2003 tournament.

Kashima leads Group F ahead of China’s Beijing Guoan, which recovered from an early deficit to secure a 3-1 win over Vietnamese side Nam Dinh.

Kashima faces Nam Dinh at home next week while Gamba travels to Chunnam.

Urawa Reds received a bye into the quarterfinals as defending champion while the other 28 teams must slog it out for the other seven places.

The winner of each of the seven groups, four from West Asia and three from East Asia, advance to the last eight of the tournament, which involves the league and cup champions of 14 countries.

The winner earns a place in the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.

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