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Round of 16 - 1st Leg: Kashima Antlers (JPN) 1-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN)

Kashima Antlers earned a slim advantage over J.League rivals Sanfrecce Hiroshima after the first leg of the AFC Champions League last 16 with a 1-0 win at home on Tuesday.

Serginho proved to be the lone goalscorer of the match with a first-half header for the defending champions. This was the first all-Japanese tie in the Round of 16 since 2011 and the 17th overall between clubs from Japan in the history of the AFC Champions League.

Both sides were coming off inspiring 2-0 home wins in domestic competition at the weekend as the title holders and Hiroshima clashed for the first time in Asia’s flagship club tournament.

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While Antlers made their seventh appearance in the knockout phase of the AFC Champions League, Sanfrecce are playing on the stage for just the second time, having been knocked out by Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014 in their only other showing in the knockout rounds.

The hosts – who made it past the AFC Champions League last 16 for the first time last year before going on to win the title – produced the opener they were craving midway through the opening half on a comfortable evening at Kashima Soccer Stadium.

In the 24th minute, Shoma Doi made a mad dash for the box from midfield before attempting to cut back. The ball took a deflection off Yuki Nogami, who closed in on Doi, arching high inside the six-yard box where Serginho nodded over the line for his third goal of the competition.

The two teams traded blows for the remainder of the half and Antlers took the first stab following the intermission through Kento Misao, who tested the reflexes of goalkeeper Hirotsugu Nakabayashi not even a minute into the second half.

Neither gave the other an inch as Sanfrecce tried to level the scores with what would have been a crucial away goal, but the visitors did themselves no favours when midfielder Sho Inagaki was given his marching orders for a second booking four minutes from the end for flashing his studs against Jung Seung-Hyun.

Kashima held on to the advantage through five minutes of additional time to secure victory ahead of next Tuesday’s return tie in Hiroshima.

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