Grampus reach knockout stage


Nagoya Grampus joined Kashima Antlers in the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League with a game to spare on Wednesday after a 1-0 win at home to China’s Hangzhou Greentown in Group F.

Jungo Fujimoto held his nerve to secure victory and a place in the last 16 with a twice-taken penalty on 77 minutes, moving Grampus onto 10 points from five games, three ahead of FC Seoul, which was at home to Al Ain in a later match.

“Before the game we faced a lot of problems but I think today we achieved our goal: to make a good game, to win and qualify for the next round,” said Nagoya boss Dragan Stojkovic.

Missing a quartet of regulars including influential defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka and striker Josh Kennedy due to injury, Grampus were unable to create any noteworthy chances in the first period at Mizuho Stadium.

Hangzhou goalkeeper Jiang Bo pulled off a fine reaction save to keep out Yoshizumi Ogawa’s header a minute before the break, although Ogawa had strayed into an offside position.

Keiji Tamada fired a great chance wide following good work down the left flank from Makito Yoshida and then had a goal ruled out for offside after netting a Kensuke Nagai flick on.

Nagoya, beaten 2-0 away to Hangzhou in their opening match, continued to press and Ogawa headed Nagai’s cross against the post on 58 minutes before Stojkovic’s men made the breakthrough.

Jiang was adjudged to have fouled substitute Hikaru Kuba as he ran onto Fujimoto’s pass, and Fujimoto kept his head to beat the Hangzhou ‘keeper from the spot for a second time after his first effort had to be retaken for encroachment.

“It was very important to keep the ball in our possession, to be patient, to create action, to create the opportunity to finish,” said Stojkovic. “I think that after that beautiful pass from Fujimoto and fantastic penetration by Kuba, thanks to those two things, we scored a goal and we won.”

The last 16 will be held on May 24 and 25, with the eight group winners receiving home advantage.

In the knockout phase, Grampus could face Kashima as the Group F winner faces the runnersup in Group H. Kashima is second in Group H behind South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings after Tuesday’s 2-0 win at home to Shanghai Shenhua.

Nagoya lost to Kashima three times last year, twice in the J. League and once in the Emperor’s Cup quarterfinals.

In Australia, Gamba Osaka earned a 1-1 draw away to Melbourne Victory in Group E.

Melbourne went in front through Adrian Leijer’s 12th-minute header, but Gamba hit back just before the break when Sota Nakazawa headed in after Satoshi Yamaguchi’s shot had come back off the woodwork.

FIFA plan in place


FIFA has set a target date of July 2012 to approve goal-line technology systems that could be introduced before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Soccer’s governing organization said Tuesday that candidates must pass two more rounds of tests at a stadium of their choice. FIFA said the results will be presented to its rules-making body in July 2012.

The goal-line debate reignited days earlier with another major error by match officials. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard scored against Tottenham on Saturday, with replays showing the ball had not completely crossed the line. Chelsea won 2-1 to keep alive its Premier League title hopes.