OSAKA - First-half goals from Eiichi Katayama and Yoichiro Kakitani helped Cerezo Osaka secure a vital 2-1 win Tuesday over visiting South Korean side Jeju United in the Asian Champions League.
The victory at Yanmar Stadium ensures Cerezo are still alive in the tournament going into their final round-robin match away to Group G leader Guangzhou Evergrande of China on April 17.
Cerezo are second in the group on eight points, one behind the leaders, who drew 1-1 away to Thai side Buriram United the same day. Buriram is two points adrift of Cerezo in third place, with the top two teams advancing from the round-robin.
In other results, Kashima Antlers maintained their position at the top of Group H after salvaging a 2-2 draw away to Shanghai Shenhua.
Yuma Suzuki and Leandro scored second-half goals for the visitors after Giovanni Moreno and Mao Jianqing had put the hosts 2-0 up at halftime.
Cerezo, who came into the match having won just one of their four previous ACL matches, controlled possession in the opening stages and created most of the opportunities, with Jeju’s early forays into opposing territory coming from long balls.
Cerezo coach Yoon Jong-hwan, who sent out an almost entirely different lineup to the side that beat Shonan Bellmare 2-1 in the J. League on Saturday, said it was vital to get strong performances from his entire squad during a difficult run of matches.
“It’s a hard schedule, so it’s good to be able to call upon a large number of players,” he said. “It was a tough situation, but we were able to break through.”
Midfielder Atomu Tanaka was instrumental in Cerezo’s opener, forcing a save from Jeju goalkeeper Lee Chang-keun at close range before setting up Eiichi Katayama’s goal with his subsequent corner kick.
Tanaka curled in a dipping corner from the left, with Tanaka beating Lee with his first touch from inside the six-yard box.
Cerezo doubled the lead with 11 minutes remaining in first-half regulation when Kakitani finished off a well-constructed attacking movement, tapping home from close range off a cross from Kazuya Yamamura.
Jeju emerged from the break showing more aggression, controlling possession and forcing Cerezo to defend for much longer stretches than in the first half.
Cerezo keeper Kim Jin-hyeon was rarely troubled, however, until a 92nd-minute goal from Jin Seong-uk, heading home a cross from Chung Woon, ensured a nervous final three minutes of injury time for the hosts.
The loss ended Jeju’s hopes of advancing from the round-robin stage, leaving it with three points from five games.