Kashima Antlers through to quarter-finals
Shanghai: Japan’s Kashima Antlers booked their place in the quarter-finals of the 2018 AFC Champions League on Wednesday, edging Shanghai SIPG of China PR 4-3 on aggregate despite losing their Round of 16 second leg 2-1.
It only took seven minutes for Hulk to get this clash at Shanghai Stadium up and running, as the Brazilian gleefully capitalised on a Gen Shoji error to put Shanghai 1-0 up from close range.
With Kashima having won the first leg 3-1 in Japan, they were still ahead on aggregate but knew another goal from Shanghai would see Vitor Pereira’s side snatch the advantage on away goals, and Mu Kanazaki missed a glorious chance to settle the visitors’ nerves in the 30th minute, arcing an effort past the far post after barging his way into the box from the left flank.
Yuma Suzuki fired another warning after beating the offside trap in the 36th minute, and six minutes later Kashima did level things up on the night and re-establish their two-goal advantage in the tie when Shoma Doi cheekily flicked home a low cross from the left by Koki Anzai.
Shanghai now needed two goals to take the game to extra time, and it looked like the first of them had arrived in the 57th minute when Oscar weaved his way into the penalty area and teed up Hulk, only for the 31-year-old to see his effort from point-blank range sensationally tipped over by Kwoun Sun-tae.
Kwoun made another excellent save seven minutes later, this time turning substitute Li Shenglong’s strike past the post, but was unable to deny Hulk in the 81st minute as he squeezed a penalty under the goalkeeper’s body after Shoji was adjudged to have handled in the area.
Kashima managed to ride out a final wave of Shanghai pressure though, denying the hosts a third successive quarter-final and instead booking their own place in the last eight for the first time since their only other appearance at that stage in 2008.