Group E: Kashima Antlers (JPN) 2-1 Johor Darul Ta'zim (MAS)
Ibaraki: Japan's Kashima Antlers got their AFC Champions League title defence underway with a 2-1 win over Johor Darul Ta'zim of Malaysia in Group E on Tuesday.
There was an early scare for the visitors when JDT goalkeeper Farizal Marlias brought down Takeshi Kanamori on the edge of the box. The away side were relieved that the referee blew for a free-kick and not a penalty.
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Kashima had the chance to take the lead when Kazuma Yamaguchi fired in a shot that was fumbled by Farizal. As Serginho picked up the rebound, Farizal chopped him down and a spot-kick was awarded.
Serginho took the penalty but the JDT 'keeper redeemed himself by diving to save in the 15th minute.
JDT had an opportunity in the 35th minute when Corbin Ong La Vere rose to meet a Safawi Rasid free-kick but he directed his header wide.
The opening goal arrived for the hosts in the 44th minute after a corner broke to Taiki Hirato on the left touchline. Hirato sent in a curling cross which evaded everyone and deceived Farizal, and landed in the corner of the net.
Farizal came to JDT’s rescue in the first minute of the second half when he saved from close range from Kanamori and Serginho.
Just after he had been denied a goal by Adam Nor Azlin’s last-ditch block, Serginho made it 2-0 when he curled a left-footed strike into the top corner from 20 yards out in the 56th minute.
Farizal was called into action again four minutes later when he saved a shot from Kanemori as Kashima piled on the pressure.
There was brief respite for JDT when Diogo’s free-kick forced Kwoun Sun-tae into a save in the 62nd minute. But the hosts regained the upper hand and Kanamori volleyed just wide from close range.
But with just 10 minutes remaining, JDT pulled a goal back. Hariss Harun crossed for Diogo, who chested the ball down and fired in from six yards.
Kashima survived a tense final 10 minutes and Akhyar Rashid curled a shot just wide in added time. The holders will now travel to China PR to face Shandong Luneng next Tuesday, while JDT will take heart from this performance when they host Gyeongnam FC.
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