THU DAU MOT, VIETNAM – FC Tokyo reached the Asian Champions League second round for the first time in four years with a narrow 2-1 victory at Binh Duong on Wednesday.
Former Japan international Ryoichi Maeda struck on either side of halftime as Tokyo finished runner-up in Group E and joined Urawa Reds in the round of 16. Jeonbuk Motors won the group on goal difference following a 2-2 home draw to Jiangsu FC.
Tokyo will face Group G winner Shanghai SIPG at home on May 17 in the first leg of the last 16. The game in Shanghai is on May 24.
Hiroshi Jofuku’s side had come under pressure after dropping four of its last five in the ACL and the J. League combined, and the manager appeared relieved to say the least.
“How we played is secondary today. What matters is the result,” Jofuku said. “We’re honored to be progressing to the next round and we will give it our best shot. We need to get it going in the J. League now.”
Maeda opened the scoring in the 21st minute from close range, nodding in a Kento Hashimoto cross from the right in 35 degree heat and suffocating humidity.
Former Consadole Sapporo midfielder Le Cong Vinh hit the post shortly afterward for the hosts, who, despite having been already eliminated, made Tokyo work and would not go away.
Five minutes to the hour, Maeda came up with a much-needed second for Tokyo, hitting the back of the net from outside the box with a superb left-footed strike.
But Tokyo allowed Binh Duong back in the game in the 68th minute, when an ill-advised tackle by Yuichi Maruyama led to a penalty, which Vinh converted.
Tokyo was visibly sapped by the heat and looked to be in danger of conceding the equalizer, but hung in for all three points for its first win in a month.
“Credit the players for their resolve and determination because it was not easy out there with it being so hot,” Jofuku said. “Binh Duong had some quality players and were a difficult proposition for us, but we managed to stay focused and defend as a team.”
In Group F, Sanfrecce Hiroshima bowed out of the competition with a 2-1 win over a weakened FC Seoul side at Edion Stadium.
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