By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Asian Champions League holders Kashima Antlers and twice winners Guangzhou Evergrande reached the quarter-finals after getting past Sanfrecce Hiroshima on away goals and Shandong Luneng on penalties respectively in their second legs on Tuesday.
Japan’s Kashima, who won the title for the first time last year, lost 3-2 at fellow J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima but advanced on away goals having won the first leg 1-0.
China’s Guangzhou won the shootout 6-5 thanks to Zhong Yihao’s winning penalty after Shandong substitute Cui Peng saw his attempt saved by Liu Dianzuo.
Guangzhou lost 2-1 on the night to leave the aggregate score at 3-3 and both teams then netted in extra time to send the match to penalties since away goals do not apply in extra time.
Kashima looked set to reach the last eight with the minimum of fuss when Shoma Doi put Oiwa’s side in front 12 minutes before the interval to double their advantage on aggregate.
But the introduction of striker Patric at halftime boosted Hiroshima, with the Brazilian’s header finding the net via Tomoya Inukai’s shoulder to halve the deficit in the 66th before Sho Sasaki levelled the aggregate scores in the 72nd.
Hiroshima’s hopes looked to have evaporated when goalkeeper Hirotsugu Nakabayashi was sent off for bringing down Doi with 16 minutes left. The Kashima striker made it 2-2 on the night in the 89th when he shot past substitute keeper Takuto Hayashi.
A penalty from Patric deep into added time gave Hiroshima the lead on the night but, with referee Ali Al Qaysi not restarting the game, the Sanfrecce players left the field incensed as Kashima progressed on the away goals rule.
“The most important point about today’s game is that we are now through to the next round,” said Kashima coach Go Oiwa.
“I know everyone will have different views about all that transpired during the match, but I hope we can build on this and regroup for our next J.League game.”
Guangzhou, meanwhile, were pushed even further by Shandong in their all-Chinese Super League clash, with Fabio Cannavaro’s side needing a penalty shootout to move into the next round.
The 2013 and 2015 champions won the first leg 2-1 on home soil and a defeat by the same scoreline at the end of regulation time on Tuesday saw the game go into extra time.
Former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho had put Guangzhou in front after 13 minutes but Zhou Haibin and Marouane Fellaini scored in the second half to take the game into extra time.
Liu Junshuai then put Shandong in front on aggregate for the first time in the tie, only for Paulinho to equalise by curling a stunning free kick into the top corner of Wang Dalei’s goal.
The game went to penalties and, after five successful rounds of spot kicks, Cui’s effort was saved and it was left to Zhong to convert and take Guangzhou into the last eight.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Additional reporting by Shintaro Kano, Editing by Ken Ferris)