KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREF. – Defending Nabisco Cup champions Kashima Antlers edged closer to the semifinals of this year’s competition with a 2-1 quarterfinal, 1st leg win over Cerezo Osaka on Wednesday evening.
But as with two of the other three quarterfinals, little separated the two sides. Two goals in quick succession — by Daiki Iwamasa in the 22nd minute and Shinzo Koroki three minutes later — saw the Antlers sprint out of the blocks early on at Kashima Stadium in Ibaraki Prefecture.
But Yoichiro Kakitani pulled one back for the visitors for a valuable away goal in the 33rd minute, ensuring four-time champion Kashima, which beat Urawa Reds 1-0 in last year’s final, still has plenty to do to make the last four.
FC Tokyo also got off to a good start away to Vegalta Sendai at Yurtec Stadium. But goals either side of halftime by Naoya Tamura and Wilson saw the teams finish all square at 2-2.
Tokyo striker Kazuma Watanabe had earlier opened the scoring in the 16th minute, with Naohiro Ishikawa adding a second on the half-hour mark.
Makito Yoshida’s 77th-minute goal, meanwhile, proved to be the difference between the two sides as Nagoya Grampus beat Shimizu S-Pulse at Outsourcing Stadium.
In the day’s other game, Gamba Osaka’s poor form continued — they are currently one from bottom in the league in 17th spot — as they went down 3-1 to Kashiwa Reysol at Expo 70 Stadium.
Leandro Domingues grabbed a brace and Masato Kudo also found the back of the net for the visitors, with Daiki Niwa scoring for Gamba.
J. League champion Kashiwa, Emperor’s Cup holder Tokyo and Nagoya and Gamba — the league’s four representatives in this season’s Asian Champions League — were all handed byes into the last eight.
The second legs are slated to be played Aug. 8.