Yuma Suzuki scored twice to seal top spot in Group E of the AFC Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday evening as Japan’s Kashima Antlers defeated Muang Thong United 2-1 to leave the Thai giants in second place in the standings.
Totchtawan Sripan’s side will now play Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale in the Round of 16. Kashima, who won the group ahead of Muang Thong, will take on Guangzhou Evergrande in a mouthwatering clash later this month.
Suzuki gave Antlers the lead after just 18 minutes when he rolled the ball under Muang Thong goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan. But Teerasil Dangda pulled his side level with a fine strike from outside the area that gave Kwoun Sun-tae little chance.
With 30 minutes remaining, however, Suzuki restored Kashima’s lead with a downward header, ensuring the three points to secure Antlers’ finish at the summit.
Urawa Red Diamonds, meanwhile, claimed pole position in Group F, despite losing 1-0 to FC Seoul as Shanghai SIPG suffered a surprise 3-2 loss against 2014 champions Western Sydney Wanderers.
Wu Lei scored the third fastest goal in the history of the ACL to give Wanderers the lead after just 21 seconds. But goals from Jumpei Kusukami and Steven Lustica saw Wanderers in front by the sixth minute.
Elkeson’s penalty levelled the scores in the 23rd minute, before Jaushua Sotirio scored with just a minute remaining to give Wanderers only their second win of the campaign.
Shanghai will now take on fellow Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning while Urawa, who lost as a result of Yoon Seong-won’s goal at Seoul World Cup Stadium, will meet South Korea’s Jeju United in the next round.
In the other game in Group F, Ulsan Hyundai had Kim Yong-jin’s 75th minute goal to thank for their 3-2 win away to Brisbane Roar, which leaves the Australian club bottom of the standings, and Ulsan in third.
Round of 16
Muangthong United (Thailand) vs. Kawasaki Frontale (Japan)
Guangzhou Evergrande (China) vs. Kashima Antlers (Japan)
Shanghai SIPG (China) vs. Jiangsu Suning (China)
Jeju United (South Korea) vs. Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan)
Esteghlal (Iran) vs. Al Ain (UAE)
Al Ahli (KSA) vs. Al Ahli (UAE)
Esteghlal Khuzestan (Iran) vs. Al Hilal (KSA)
Persepolis (Iran) vs. Lekhwiya (Qatar)
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch