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Ibaraki: Second-half goals from Mu Kanazaki and Yuma Suzuki ensured Japan’s Kashima Antlers opened their 2017 AFC Champions League Group E campaign with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over 2012 winners Ulsan Hyundai of Korea Republic on Tuesday.

Kashima goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae tipped countryman Jeong Jae-yong’s goalbound header onto the post just after the half hour in an even opening 45 minutes at Kashima Soccer Stadium, before the visitors’ Han Seung-gyu struck the woodwork from fully 40 yards shortly after the restart.

But midfielder Kanazaki rose highest to powerfully head home captain Ryota Nagaki’s corner from the left on 64 minutes to give the hosts the advantage and striker Suzuki found the back of the net from a narrow angle with eight minutes remaining as the J.League champions claimed all three points. 

The win means Kashima take an early lead at the top of the standings after Australia’s Brisbane Roar and Muangthong United of Thailand played out a scoreless stalemate in Tuesday’s other Group E encounter. 

Photo: Lagardère Sports