|Title||ACL MD6 - Group H: Kashima Antlers 2-3 FC Seoul|
Kashima: A stoppage time strike from former winner Mauricio Molina took 2013 finalists FC Seoul through to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League following a thrilling 3-2 win over Kashima Antlers on Tuesday that eliminated not only their J.League hosts but also defending champions Western Sydney Wanderers.
But after Kashima forward Shuhei Akasaki’s early opener was cancelled out by FC Seoul defender Lee Woong-hee in the first half, and Osmar Barba and Gaku Shibasaki exchanged goals in the second period, Colombian midfielder Molina broke the hearts of both Kashima and Western Sydney in the final minutes.
With nothing short of all three points being enough for Kashima to progress, the hosts had begun the tie on the front foot and took the lead inside the opening 10 minutes as Akasaki unleashed a powerful drive that zipped across FC Seoul goalkeeper Yu Sang-hun on its way into the top left-hand corner.
And Akasaki then went close to adding to his tally on 20 minutes as he was close to latching on to Daigo Nishi’s through ball, but defender Kim Nam-chun nicked the ball away from the onrushing forward at the last minute.
Yasushi Endo came even closer to a second for Kashima just before the half hour mark, though, as his free-kick from 20 yards curled over the FC Seoul wall to slam against the foot of the right-hand upright before Yu did well to save the follow-up from Brazilian forward Caio.
Despite their dominance for much of the first period, though, Kashima were to go into the interval with the scores level as FC Seoul defender Lee shook off marker Shuto Yamamoto and met Koh Myong-jin’s vicious inswinging corner with a powerful header across goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata.
And FC Seoul’s threat from set-pieces was underlined again just six minutes after the re-start as Koh’s short corner was played to Yun Il-lok and the midfielder’s deep cross to the back post found Spanish midfielder Barba whose header took a vital deflection off Gen Shoji’s outstretched leg to beat Sogahata.
At the other end, Hiroyuki Takasaki had a golden chance to restore parity on 70 minutes, but despite being found unmarked inside the penalty area, the second half substitute headed over.
With the visitors sitting back to defend the lead and inviting pressure from the home side, though, another opportunity was not long in coming and with 11 minute remaining Kashima captain Shibasaki found the equaliser after his acrobatic effort saw the ball loop over Yu on the third attempt from close range.
With Western Sydney winning in Guangzhou, a draw would be sufficient for neither team and the final 10 minutes saw end-to-end action from both sides, but neither team looked able to find the breakthrough.
But as the game entered stoppage time, second half substitute Molina – who won the AFC Champions League in 2010 with Korea Republic’s Seongnam FC - turned inside the area after being given space by Mitsuo Ogasawara and his left foot shot sneaked inside the post past Sogahata.
Kashima tried to rally to bring the scores level for a third time in the game, but the 2013 finalists held on to secure passage to the knockout stage for a third year in succession.
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