OSAKA – Cerezo Osaka’s hopes of progressing to the knockout phase of the Asian Champions suffered a blow after they were beaten 2-0 at home to 2009 champions Pohang Steelers in their penultimate Group E game on Wednesday.
In China, Naoki Ishihara scored twice in the space of three minutes as J. League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima kept alive their hopes of progressing from Group F, rallying from two goals down to draw 2-2 away to Beijing Guoan.
Hiroshima have six points, two behind group leaders FC Seoul, who won 1-0 away to Central Coast Mariners. Hiroshima face Mariners at home and Seoul host Beijing in the final round of group stage games next week.
Trailing 1-0 to Lee Myung-joo’s 24th-minute opener, Cerezo were reduced to 10 men shortly before halftime when Takumi Minamino was sent off, and a second goal from Kim Seung-dae all but killed off any hopes of a comeback at Yanmar Stadium.
“It was a lame performance and I feel bad for the fans that came out to watch us,” said Cerezo captain Hotaru Yamaguchi.
“I didn’t think we did badly (with 10 men) but the second goal really hurt us. Our mistakes led to our downfall. Takumi should never have gone in (on his opponent) from behind but that shows his immaturity.”
The result leaves Cerezo with five points ahead of their final game away to China’s Shandong Luneng, who lost 1-0 away to Thailand’s Buriram United. Shandong and Buriram also both have five points. Pohang have 11 points and secured qualification to the next stage.
“We have to win our next game now and that is all there is too it,” said Yamaguchi.
Pohang took the lead with a soft opener after some slack defending by the home side.
Go Moo-yul picked up a throw-in on the left wing and put a low cross into the danger zone. Cerezo were slow to pick up Kim Jae-sung. Although his shot was blocked by keeper Kim Jin Hyeon, the loose ball fell to Lee, who made no mistake from seven meters.
The visitors were given another boost in the 41st minute when Minamino was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on Son Jun Ho.
Cerezo went close on a handful of occasions despite their numerical disadvantage, but Kim Sung-dae rammed home Son’s cross at the far post in the 65th minute to make the points safe.