The Champions will now rely on the results of others to keep their Asian Champions League hopes alive after Western Sydney Wanderers lost at home on Tuesday night. Kashima Antlers came out the winners, winning 2-1 at Pirtek Stadium, now needing some help to advance.
It was a stunning second half performance from Kashima which saw them win the match as they were able to come from behind. The result now sets an incredibly difficult task for the Wanderers as they will need to beat Chinese Super League powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande on the road and require a draw in the match between FC Seoul and Kashima Antlers in order to advance.
Western Sydney started the match well as they had the first clear chance of the match just seven minutes in. Nikita Rukavytsya was able to get space and shoot across the face but Hitoshi Soghata was up to the task blocking the shot for a corner, which came to nothing.
After that early scare, Kashima seemed to solidify defensively, as they looked to restrict Western Sydney, but they just could not create chances. That saw Western Sydney still the stronger side as they were looking more likely to score but still had difficulties creating chances.
The defending Champions were able to hit the lead in the 24th minute, coming after a poor Naomici Ueda clearance. The Ueda clearance fell right to Rukavytsya who was able to control and hit too powerfully for Soghata to make it 1-0.
Kashima nearly made it level just three minutes later as Shuto Yamamoto was left wide open at the far post. The cross came in, spotting Yamamoto open, but his header was poor, much too soft, allowing Ante Covic to push it on to the bar.
In the closing stages of the half Kashima could well have had a penalty opportunity after Gaku Shibasaki’s cross was spilled by Covic. After dropping the ball, Covic then took down Mu Kanazaki but the referee was unmoved as the half ended 1-0.
After the break Kashima were determined to get back on level terms as they went out, determined to get back on level terms. Daigo Nishi was looking dangerous for Kashima in the early stages as he was able to create plenty of chances.
It was all Kashima throughout the second half, as they were absolutely controlling the match and were looking for an equalizer. The goal finally came in the 66th minute, after the Wanderers cleared a corner and rushed out, which saw a quick ball allowing Shoma Doi to be released and curl the ball in past Ante Covic.
The match evened out after that but stoppage time saw Kashima come in and steal a vital three points. Yamamoto made a great run down the left which allowed him to then cross in for Kanazaki who was able to simply poke the ball past Covic to get the 2-1 win and jump in to second.