Captain Yuki Abe went from zero to hero as Urawa Reds kept alive their chances of progressing to the round of 16 in the Asian Champions League with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over China’s Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday night.

Abe missed a first-half penalty, and Lucas Barrios pounced to put the Chinese in front on 36 minutes at Saitama Stadium 2002. But Shinzo Koroki equalized and Abe made amends with the second before Marcio Richardes converted from the spot with what proved to be the clincher midway through the second period.

With one round of matches left to play, Urawa remain in third place on seven points, three behind Group F leaders Guangzhou and two behind South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors, who won 2-0 at home to Thailand’s Muangthong United.

Making their first ACL appearance in five years, Urawa, the 2007 champions, are away to Muangthong on May 1, when Guangzhou host Jeonbuk.

After a scrappy opening 15 minutes littered with misplaced passes from both teams, Guangzhou went close to taking the lead on a rain-lashed pitch when Argentine midfielder Dario Conca brought an excellent save out of Nobuhiro Kato.

Tadaaki Hirakawa went close at the other end with a shot that Zeng Cheng comfortably dealt with at his near post, before Abe spurned a glorious chance to put the home side in front on 24 minutes.

Marcio Richardes was brought down in the box, but Abe was unable to take advantage, cracking his spot kick off the inside of the left-hand post.

Kato pulled off another fabulous stop to deny Muriqui, but Abe was left to count the cost of his miss as Barrios ran clean through and rounded Kato to slot into an empty net.

Marcio Richardes nearly hit back with a deflected shot that fizzed past the post and the bleach-blonde Brazilian was inches away from connecting at the far post in first-half stoppage time.

Kuroki gave Urawa hope when he turned home the equalizer on 52 minutes from close range and Abe earned redemption when he rattled in the second after taking a return pass from Tomoaki Makino.

Kuroki earned Reds their second penalty of the night on 66 minutes and Marcio Richardes made no mistake, planting a firm shot into the left-hand corner.

Urawa endured a nervous final few minutes after Muriqui pulled one back amid much confusion, but Urawa held on for a hard-earned three points. Zhang Linpeng was sent off in injury time after knocking over Nobuhisa Yamada.

In a later game in Group E, Vegalta Sendai were away to Thailand’s Buriram United.

Emperor’s Cup holders Kashiwa Reysol qualified for the round of 16 for the second year in a row after a 1-1 draw at home to China’s Guizhou Renhe on Tuesday. J. League champions Sanfreece Hiroshima have already been eliminated.

Kashima edge Nagoya

KASHIMA, Ibaraki Pref.

Juninho fired two-time defending champions Kashima Antlers into the Group B lead in the Nabisco Cup as Toninho Cerezo’s side defeated Nagoya Grampus 1-0 on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Juninho struck in style midway through the opening half for Kashima, who went two points clear of idle Cerezo Osaka with the victory.

Nagoya fielded a weakened team for the fifth round of league cup games, whereas Kashima were at full strength in the evening’s marquee matchup. The hosts capitalized on their quality and easily had the better moments of the first half, one of which led to Juninho’s 23rd-minute goal.

The Brazilian latched on to a great through ball from Yuya Osako, who led the line well against a Grampus defense missing Marcus Tulio Tanaka, and found the net on his first touch for his 26th career strike in the league cup — tying him for the record of former Japan striker Masashi Nakayama.

Hoping to galvanize the attack, Nagoya boss Dragan Stojkovic handed 18-year-old prodigy Reo Mochizuki his professional debut for the second half, but Grampus never got it going as Antlers dealt the visitors their first defeat of the competition.


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