KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREFECTURE – Defending champions Kashima Antlers exited the Asian Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday with a 1-1 home draw against China’s Guangzhou Evergrande.
The teams had played to a scoreless draw in the first leg and Guangzhou advanced to the semifinals on away goals.
Needing to win at Kashima Stadium, Antlers conceded in the first half and equalized in the second, but they could not find the goal that would put them into a semifinal with J-League rivals Urawa Reds.
Guangzhou’s Anderson Talisca headed in from short range in the 40th minute from a corner. Although closely marked, the Brazilian timed the ball perfectly, getting to it a split second before Antlers ‘keeper Kwoun Sun-tae could punch the ball away.
“We paid special attention to their set plays, and even though we conceded on that corner, the players fought hard, despite the frustrating result,” Antlers head coach Go Oiwa said.
Visiting goalkeeper Zeng Cheng prevented the hosts from going up 1-0 in the 14th minute with a remarkable leaping save, blocking a hard shot from Leo Silva with his fingertips.
In the 32nd minute, Antlers’ Serginho just missed with a splendid overhead kick. The hosts continued to apply pressure, but once they were behind the packed Guangzhou penalty area became an extremely tough nut to crack.
It took a fluke goal for Antlers to equalize six minutes after the break. Serginho was in the right place at the right time when another hard shot from Leo Silva deflected off his chest and into Zeng’s goal.
Reds, the 2017 champions, set up the possibility of an all-Japan semifinal between the ACL’s last two champions on away goals following their 1-1 draw against Shangai SIPG on Tuesday. But failing to score in Guangzhou in the first leg proved to be Antlers’ downfall.