KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREF. – The Kashima Antlers lost 1-0 to the Suwon Bluewings in their final Asian Champions League round-robin match Tuesday night, advancing to the knockout stage as runners-up in Group H, while Cerezo Osaka were eliminated from Group G after losing 3-1 to Guangzhou Evergrande.
The J. League side only needed a draw to finish on top of the group, but a 31st-minute goal from Dejan Damjanovic secured the victory and first place for the South Korean club, which came into the tie at Kashima Stadium two points behind the hosts.
Kashima had already confirmed its qualification for the East Region knockout stage following its 2-2 draw against Shanghai Shenhua two weeks ago. The Antlers will host Group F winners Shanghai SIPG in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie on May 9.
Montenegrin forward Damjanovic slotted home the winner from a set piece, beating Antlers ‘keeper Kwoun Sun-tae from the center of the box after connecting with a free kick taken by Waguininho just outside the penalty area.
The hosts had 60 percent of the possession on the night but put just one shot on target, with manager Go Oiwa keeping only three of his starting 11 players from the side that drew with Shenhua.
“It was a disappointing 90 minutes,” Oiwa said following the match. “We weren’t able to execute our plan very well and in the middle of that gave up a goal on a set play. We didn’t have the strength to bounce back from that.
“We need to take a hard look at our shortcomings and rectify them going forward.”
Cerezo came into their final round-robin match needing a win over Chinese Super League side Evergrande to guarantee a ticket to the knockout stage, but the Group G leaders proved too strong on home turf.
Takaki Fukumitsu equalized for the visitors four minutes after midfielder Huang Bowen gave Evergrande the lead in the sixth minute, but a second-half brace from Alan ensured the victory and top place in the group for the two-time champions.
Thai side Buriram United beat Jeju United of South Korea 1-0 away to leapfrog Cerezo and finish second in the group.
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