Ibaraki: Kashima Antlers head coach Go Oiwa expects his team to learn the lessons of a challenging group phase in the 2019 AFC Champions League after the defending champions squeezed into the last 16 on Wednesday.
Substitute Sho Ito scored twice to earn Kashima a 2-1 win over Shandong Luneng and a place in the next round, when they will play fellow J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima over two legs in June.
Kuala Lumpur: Seven of the eight groups in the 2019 AFC Champions League drew to a close last week, with 16 sides set to continue their quest for Continental glory when the knockout rounds begin in four weeks' time.
A further 16 teams – along with Spanish legend Xavi – have now departed the competition. Ahead of the month-long break, here's the-AFC.com's look back at the week in numbers.
ACL2019 MD6 Toyota Player of the Week: Yasuto Wakizaka
Kuala Lumpur: Yasuto Wakizaka has been named the Toyota Player of the Week after the attacking midfielder bagged a brace in Kawasaki Frontale’s 4-0 away victory at Sydney FC on Tuesday.
Making his first start in the 2019 AFC Champions League, Wakizaka fired his side in front from distance early in the game before finishing off a nice team move to double Kawasaki’s advantage on the 20-minute mark.
The 23-year-old also created a weekly high seven chances for his teammates as he earned a 9.6 rating, although the J.League team narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout rounds after Shanghai SIPG’s victory over Ulsan Hyundai saw the Chinese side claim the Group H runners-up spot.
Shanghai’s Brazilian midfielder Oscar came second in the rankings after he scored a hat-trick in a resounding 5-0 win over Group H winners Ulsan to ensure his team joined the Koreans in the last 16.
Group E: Kashima Antlers (JPN) 2-1 Shandong Luneng FC (CHN)
Ibaraki: Substitute Sho Ito scored two goals in the second half to rescue Kashima Antlers’ 2019 AFC Champions League campaign on Wednesday, as Go Oiwa’s side came from behind to defeat Shandong Luneng FC 2-1 and qualify for the Round of 16.
Marouane Fellaini gave Shandong the lead 11 minutes into the game and Kashima looked to be heading for the exit until Ito’s intervention from the bench in the last quarter of the game gave the holders all three points to seal second place in Group E.
The result means Kashima will take on fellow J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the last 16 next month while Shandong finish top of the group, despite the defeat, and will take on fellow Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande in the next round.
Shanghai: While Brazilian superstar Oscar may have taken the majority of the plaudits – and the match ball – after Shanghai SIPG’s 5-0 AFC Champions League Group H win over Ulsan Hyundai on Tuesday, for one player it was an extra-special night at Shanghai Stadium.
Needing a win to secure a place in the last 16, Oscar’s first-half brace calmed any nerves among the Chinese Super League champions, before Li Shenglong added a third – his first-ever goal in the competition – to effectively secure the three points and qualification.
Oscar grabbed his hat-trick soon after and Hu Jinghang rounded off the scoring late on as Shanghai progressed to the knockout rounds for the fourth successive year and Li was left with a night to remember.