Cerezo blast into knockout stages

Japanese side blitz into Asian Champions League last-16 with 4-0 win over Shandong Luneng.

    South Korean's Suwon Bluewings finished at the top of Group H to take the home advantage next round [AFP]

    Japanese side Cerezo Osaka rolled into the Asian Champions League knockout stages with a dominant display over China's Shandong Luneng on Tuesday, making their mark on Asia's premier footballing competition in style.

    Cerezo beat Shandong Luneng 4-0, with the result denying the Chinese club a berth in the last 16.

    Shandong needed to win to put Cerezo in second place in Group G, but aside from an opportunity in the opening minute, the reigning Chinese Super League champions were outplayed throughout the game.

    Earlier on Tuesday, 2006 winners Jeonbuk Motors qualified at the top of Group G with a 6-0 rout of minnows Arema Indonesia, who leave the competition with just one point from six games and a goal difference of minus 14.

    South Korea's Suwon Bluewings beat bottom-placed Shanghai Shenhua 3-0 to secure top spot in Group H and most importantly to take the crucial home advantage for this month's one-off round of 16 matches.

    In West Asia, the Saudi side Al Shabab beat Group D leader Zobahan of Iran 1-0 to reach the knockout stage.

    The top two Group C teams in Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia and Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan drew 1-1 to ensure they both advanced.

    In control

    Cerezo's opening goal came in the 39th minute when Shandong goalkeeper Yang Cheng could only parry a long-range strike into the path of Brazilian striker Rodrigo, who reacted sharply to head the ball into an empty net.

    Shandong's victory hopes were all but snuffed out in the first minute of the second half when Hiroshi Kiyotake finished an impressive move by controlling a pass on his chest, stepping inside a defender and then rifling a well-hit shot into the top right corner.

    Impressive playmaker Takashi Inui added the third goal in the 73rd, completing a counterattack by pouncing on a rebound and shooting just inside the left post.

    Shandong's Cui Peng was sent off soon afterward for an ugly challenge, diving in feet-first on an opponent, and he walked off without any argument.

    Results & fixtures

    Tuesday May 10

    Group C
    Al Wahda 2-0 Piroozi Athletic
    Al Ittihad 1-1 Bunyodkor

    Group D
    Al Rayyan 2-0 Emirates
    Zobahan 0-1 Al Shabab

    Group G
    Jeonbuk 6-0 Arema Ind
    Cerezo 4-0 Shandong

    Group H
    Kashima 2-1 Sydney FC
    Shanghai 0-3 Suwon

    Substitute Shu Karata further punished Shandong in the 81st, as he played a one-two with a teammate and waltzed between two defenders before driving in his shot off the foot of the right post.

    Kashima Antlers from Japan celebrated a battling achievement in progressing despite having their stadium badly damaged in March's earthquake and tsunami disaster, which also left the J-League suspended for several weeks.

    Playing in their temporary home of Tokyo's National Stadium, Kashima came from a goal down to beat Sydney FC 2-1 and finish second in Group H behind Suwon, after already securing qualification last week.

    That result meant Kashima and Suwon finished level on points and could not be split on head-to-head record, so the group winner was decided by the third criteria of goal difference.

    Mental strength

    Coach Oswaldo Oliveira hailed his players' mental strength in shrugging off the earthquake tragedy, and said the Antlers were now focused on winning the Champions League.

    "I think we should be appreciated for getting through the group round under severe conditions following the earthquake; the halt of the league, the change of home games, which affected the conditions and feelings of my players," he said.

    "The Champions League has been becoming tougher and tougher every year, but we don't change our goal to achieve the summit," added the Brazilian.

    The Bluewings went ahead in Shanghai through striker Park Jong-jin in the 13th minute. Suwon got the cushion of a second goal in the 56th minute thanks to tall forward Ha Tae-gyun, and midfielder Shin Se-gye added a third in stoppage time.

    Al Rayyan of Qatar scored two second-half goals to beat Emirates of United Arab Emirates 2-0 to earn their first victory of the campaign.

    Emirates, the only club not in the topflight, needed a win and Al Shabab to lose to advance.

    In Group C, Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates ended Piroozi Athletic of Iran's slim chances of advancing with a 2-0 win. Piroozi needed a win and a loss by Bunyodkor which settled for a draw.

    The top two teams from eight groups qualify for the last 16, before two-legged quarter and semi-finals followed by a one-off final in November. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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