Kashima Antlers show Tianjin Quanjian no mercy

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Kashima Antlers are through to the last four of the AFC Champions League after beating Tianjin Quanjian 3-0 on Tuesday to claim an emphatic 5-0 aggregate quarter-final win.

Heading into the game at the Estadio Campo Desportivo in Macau with a two-goal lead from the first leg, Kashima curiously made a nervy start to the contest and it initially looked as though a Quanjian comeback would not be out of the question.

Unsurprisingly, it was Brazilian star Alexandre Pato who fired away the first warning shot for the Chinese Super League side, latching onto Yang Xu’s flick-on and sending a fierce volley straight at Kwoun Sun-tae.

But, with their first real foray forward in the 13th minute, Kashima opened the scoring when Yasushi Endo swung a corner to the near post to pick out Serginho, who was left completely unmarked and nipped in ahead of opposition keeper Zhang Lu to head home.

Quanjian threatened to equalise six minutes before the half-hour mark when the Japanese visitors failed to fully clear their lines at a set-piece and – pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the box – Pato drove an effort towards goal, only for an alert Atsuto Uchida to race back and cover for the out-of-position Kwoun with a goal-line clearance.

Just three minutes later, Uchida weighed in with another pivotal contribution but this time at the other end of the field.

Celebration time for the Antlers.

A lovely turn by Endo saw him create the yard of space he needed to release the overlapping Uchida, who charged towards the byline before cutting a pass back for Hiroki Abe to curl into the far corner with the help of a deflection.

Just a minute later, the Antlers could have added another as Yuma Suzuki and Serginho combined to carve out an opening for Abe, but his low shot was kept out with a smart save by Zhang Lu.

Quanjian captain Zhang Lu finding his goal under siege.

With a 4-0 lead on aggregate by halftime, there was never ever any real doubt that Kashima would not be marching on into the semis, where they will meet either Suwon Samsung Bluewings or Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Nonetheless, just for good measure, they added a third on the night in the 66th minute as a patient passing move eventually resulted in Shoma Doi laying one off to Serginho before venturing into the box to receive the return pass, where he then proceeded to lash a left-footed shot into the far corner.

TIANJIN QUANJIAN: Zhang Lu, Liu Yiming, Kwon Kyung-won, Wang Jie, Zhang Xiuwei, Wu Wei, Pei Shuai (Zhao Xuri 74’), Wang Xiaolong (Mi Haolun 75’), Wang Yongpo (Zheng Dalun 74’), Alexandre Pato, Yang Xu.

KASHIMA ANTLERS: Kwoun Sun-tae, Atsuto Uchida, Jung Seung-hyun, Tomoya Inukai, Shuto Yamamoto (Mitsuo Ogasawara 79’), Kento Misao, Leo Silva (Ryota Nagaki 69’), Yasushi Endo, Serginho, Hiroki Abe, Yuma Suzuki (Shoma Doi 61’).