Japan's Kashima Antlers have progressed to the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League with a comfortable 4-0 win away at Vietnam's Nam Dinh.
|Archie Thompson, right, celebrates a goal |
for the Melbourne Victory [GALLO/GETTY]
Kashima went into the final matchday of the group round level on points with China's Beijing Guoan, leaving everything hinging on the Wednesday's matches.
But the showdown turned into an anticlimax as Beijing Guoan quickly fell to a 4-0 deficit away by the already-eliminated Krung Thai Bank of Thailand and ended up losing 5-3.
Kashima joins fellow J-League clubs Gamba Osaka and defending champion Urawa Red Diamonds in the last eight, with Uzbekistan's Kuruvchi and Iran's Saipa also having already booked their quarterfinal berths.
The winners of west Asian groups C and E were to be decided later Wednesday, with only group winners advancing.
Group E was the only other group left undecided, with the key final fixture between Chinese champion Changchun Yatai and visiting Adelaide United of Australia delayed until Thursday to allow for the end of a mourning period for victims of China's recent earthquake.
Changchun must win otherwise Adelaide will progress to the quarterfinals.
In Wednesday's Group E game, Pohang Steelers of South Korea played out a goalless draw with Vietnam's Binh Duong in a clash of two already-eliminated teams.
In Group G, Gamba Osaka had already secured top place in the group, and went through the motions in a 1-1 draw against South Korea's Chunnam Dragons.
In the other game in the group, Australia's Melbourne Victory had a 3-1 home win over Thailand's Chonburi.
Kashima had to wait until the 28th minute for a goal to settle nerves against Nam Dinh, with Yuzo Tashiro getting on the end of a long pass to beat the offside trap and slot home.
The Antlers were able to relax in the second half given Beijing Guoan's struggles in Thailand, and rattled in three goals.
Shinzo Koroki and Masashi Motoyama both scored in similar fashion, pouncing on rebounds from their own blocked shots. Brazilian forward Danilo scored with three minutes left, knocking a ball past the last defender and easily outpacing the cover to slot home.
Beijing Guoan's hopes of beating Kashima to top spot in the group quickly unraveled against Krung Thai Bank, which was inspired by striker Nanthawat Thaensopa's four goals.
Krung Thai Bank led 3-0 at halftime, with Nanthawat's brace complemented by another from Peeraphong Pichitchotirat.
Nanthawat made it 4-0 early in the second half. Jorge Tiago Honorio scored a late hattrick for Beijing Guoan.
The eight goals in the match took the goals aggregate from the Thai team's six group games to an extraordinary 44.
The final day of group matches came as teams digested news of a proposed restructure of the Champions League for the next two seasons.
The changes, dependent upon ratification by the Asian Football Confederation executive committee, and nations reaching certain promised benchmarks, will see Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Iran and China each get four teams in the 32-team group stage.
Australia will get two berths, with one each for Jordan, Indonesia, Kuwait and the emerging India.
Two places will be reserved for playoffs involving the finalists of this year's second-tier AFC Cup, and teams from Syria, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.