KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREF. – Kashima Antlers will have the chance to defend their Asian Champions League title after qualifying for the continental club tournament with a 4-1 demolition of Australian side Newcastle Jets on Tuesday.
Brazilian forward Serginho scored a second-half brace in the ACL playoff at Kashima Stadium after the J. League side took a 2-1 lead into the break.
Forward Sho Ito put Antlers ahead in the 18th minute, but Venezuelan striker Ronny Vargas struck back for the visitors just five minutes later.
Defender Shuto Yamamoto put the hosts back in front when he headed home a cross from Koki Anzai near the edge of the six-yard box.
Serginho, who was instrumental in Antlers claiming their first ACL title last November, stretched the score to 3-1 when he converted a penalty kick in the 67th minute.
He netted again in the second minute of time added, beating Newcastle keeper Glen Moss from close range with an assist from Kazuma Yamaguchi.
In the night’s other game, Sanfrecce Hiroshima defeated Thailand’s Chiangrai United 4-3 in a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of scoreless action at Edion Stadium.
After a potential game-winner by ace striker Patric was awarded, then called offside late in the second half of extra time, the Brazilian got it done from the spot as the team’s first kicker.
He was followed by successful attempts by Yoshifumi Kashiwa and Yuki Nogami, a clanger off the crossbar by Hayao Kawabe and finally the clincher by Taishi Matsumoto as the plucky visitors stayed alive until the bitter end.
Kashima joins South Korea’s Gyeongnam FC, Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim and China’s Shandong Luneng in Group E, while Sanfrecce will be paired with China’s Guangzhou Evergrande, South Korea’s Daegu FC, and Australia’s Melbourne Victory in Group F.
The ACL’s group stage, which will also feature reigning J. League champions Kawasaki Frontale and Emperor’s Cup champions Urawa Reds, begins in the competition’s East Zone on March 5.