It's not even February, and a J. League team has been eliminated from the Asian Champions League.

Following Melbourne Victory's 1-0 win at Kashima Stadium on Tuesday, Kashima Antlers became the first Japanese team ever to bounce out of the continental competition's playoff stage.

While the 2018 Asian champions played well and were arguably unlucky to give up a goal to former Urawa Reds striker Andrew Nabbout in miserable conditions, it must also be noted that the circumstances of a competitive schedule that has crept earlier and earlier into winter were far from favorable.