AFC Champions League 2019: Kashima survive Sanfrecce scare to reach quarters

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Kashima Antlers are through to the quarter-finals of AFC Champions League 2019 after surviving an almighty scare to beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima on away goals in the Round of 16 following a 3-3 aggregate draw.

Holding a 1-0 lead from last week’s opening encounter, it was defending champions Kashima who drew first blood at the Hiroshima Big Arch three minutes after the half-hour mark.

Pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the box after Shintaro Nago’s left-wing cross was half-cleared by Sho Sasaki, Shoma Doi instinctively rifled away a shot that took a slight deflection and found its way past Hirotsugu Nakabayashi.

AFC Champions League 2019: Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-1 Kashima Antlers (Shoma Doi 33′)

But, in the 67th minute, Sanfrecce were given a glimmer of hope when Patric met Yoshifumi Kashiwa’s right-wing delivery and headed the ball into Tomoya Inukai, who could only look on in horror as it rebounded off him and into his own goal.

Just five minutes later, the hosts struck again when Patric’s initial bullet header was well saved by Kwoun Sun-tae but the attack was kept alive; Kyohei Yoshino and Tsukasa Morishima combining to set up Sho Sasaki, whose low drive was deflected past the hapless Kashima goalkeeper.

AFC Champions League 2019: Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 Kashima Antlers (Sho Sasaki 72′)

Nonetheless, just as the comeback looked on the cards, Sanfrecce were dealt a real blow in the 74th minute when goalkeeper Hirotsugu Nakabayashi was adjudged to have cynically fouled Shoma Doi as the last man, and was immediately shown a red card.

Somehow, despite the numerical deficit, Sanfrecce continued to threaten and looked to have scored again in the 81st minute when Patric bundled the ball home at the far post, only for the strike to be chalked off as play was called back for a dive by Kashiwa – much to the chagrin of the home team.

Then, with a minute remaining, Nakabayashi’s replacement Takuto Hayashi went forward for a corner in a last-ditch attempt from the hosts but the plan backfired as they were hit on the counter.

AFC Champions League 2019: Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-2 Kashima Antlers (Shoma Doi 89′)

Again, Doi was Kashima’s main man as he played the ball on to Leo Silva and ran forward to receive the return pass, before coolly guiding a 40-yard effort into the back of the unguarded net.

There was still time for one final piece of drama as Sanfrecce were awarded a penalty deep in injury-time after Patric was dragged down by Ikuma Sekigawa while challenging for a header.

Patric made no mistake in blasting the resultant spot-kick past Kwoun to claim a 3-2 win on the night for his side, although it was Kashima who march on into the quarter-finals in thrilling fashion.

SANFRECCE HIROSHIMA: Hirotsugu Nakabayashi, Yuki Nogami, Hayato Araki, Sho Sasaki, Kohei Shimizu (Patric 46’), Hayao Kawabe (Gakuto Notsuda 67’), Kyohei Yoshino (Takuto Hayashi 76’), Yoshifumi Kashiwa, Tsukasa Morishima, Kosei Shibasaki, Douglas Vieira.

KASHIMA ANTLERS: Kwoun Sun-tae, Ryota Nagaki, Jung Seung-hyun (Ikuma Sekigawa 4’), Tomoya Inukai, Koki Machida, Yasushi Endo (Itsuki Oda 88’), Leo Silva, Kento Misao, Shintaro Nago (Ryohei Shirasaki 68’), Shoma Doi, Serginho.