KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREF. – Yuma Suzuki scored twice as Kashima Antlers beat Thailand’s Muangthong United 2-1 at home on Wednesday night to book a meeting with Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande in the round of 16 in the Asian Champions League.
Suzuki scored with headers either side of a screamer from Teerasil Dangda to ensure Antlers leapfrogged Muangthong to top spot in Group E after the final round of first-round matches.
Antlers finished the group stage with 12 points, one ahead of Muangthong, and will play Group G runner-up and two-time ACL champion Guangzhou over two legs, away first on May 23 and then at home on May 30.
“We could not afford to lose this game being at home so I am glad we won,” said Suzuki, whose double helped him make amends for missing a penalty when Antlers were stunned 2-1 away by Muangthong in February.
“I missed a penalty when we played them away and we lost the match and I felt responsible for that. I haven’t been getting goals lately so wanted to do whatever I could to score.”
Muangthong in the round of 16 will face Kawasaki Frontale, who beat Hong Kong’s Eastern SC 4-0 on Tuesday and secured top spot in Group G.
Japan has three teams in the round of 16. Also on Wednesday, Urawa Reds lost 1-0 away to already eliminated FC Seoul but still finished top of Group F after Shanghai SIPG were also defeated, the Chinese club going down 3-2 away to Western Sydney Wanderers.
Reds, ACL champions in 2007, will play Group H runner-up Jeju United in the next round.
At Kashima Stadium, Antlers got an early scare and needed goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae to pull off a smart save to thwart Mongkol Tossakrai after 10 minutes.
But it was the home side that took the lead on 19 minutes, Suzuki galloping onto a clever pass from Yasushi Endo and sliding the ball through the legs of Muangthong goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan from a tight angle.
Kashima could easily have extended its lead as Pedro Junior and Daigo Nishi both had headers well saved by Kawin, but the Thais hit back on the stroke of halftime as Teerasil rifled a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Kashima restored the lead for good on the hour, though, as Suzuki connected with another cross from Endo, the ball coming off his face and then leg before bouncing past Kawin.