SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Kashima Antlers put one foot in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals as the former Japanese champions beat Shanghai SIPG 3-1 in the first leg of their last 16 clash on Wednesday.
Shanghai’s Brazilian striker Elkeson scored what could be a crucial away goal for Vitor Pereira’s Chinese Super League leaders 14 minutes from time, but only after Yuma Suzuki, Daigo Nishi and a Yu Hai own goal gave the hosts a three-goal lead.
The teams meet again next Wednesday, with Kashima on the brink of a last-eight place for the first time since 2008.
“It’s difficult to accept this result,” said SIPG coach Pereira. “I’m very disappointed. We let them score too easily but when we are back at home I’m sure we can score twice and win the game.
“We had a good second half but we only scored once. We have to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes we made today so we can perform better and qualify.”
SIPG’s poor defending at corners allowed Antlers to take a two-goal lead, with Suzuki smashing the ball home from close range after the Chinese failed to clear in the 43rd minute.
Nishi added the second four minutes into the second half following another botched clearance.
Yu then put the ball in his own net under pressure from Suzuki as he tried to clear Koki Anzai’s cross to the far post.
Elkeson stroked home from close range in the 76th to give SIPG a lifeline ahead of the return leg at Shanghai Stadium.
Ulsan Hyundai shaded their all-South Korea meeting against Suwon Bluewings 1-0 with Kim In-sung scoring the only goal midway through the second half when he slipped the ball past Shin Hwa-yong following Mislav Orsic’s through pass.
Zob Ahan’s Giorgi Gvelesiani converted a 93rd minute penalty for a 1-0 win over fellow Iranians Esteghlal in the first leg of their tie, while former champions Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates lost 4-2 at home to Qatar’s Al Duhail.
It was Al Duhail’s seventh win in a row in the competition this year and Djemal Belmadi’s team held a four-goal lead following strikes by Youssef El Arabi, Nam Tae-hee, Ismaeel Mohammed and Almoez Ali inside 55 minutes.
But goals from Ahmed Khalil and Ibrahim Diaky in the final quarter of the game will give the 2003 champions and 2016 runners-up some hope ahead of the return in Doha next week.
Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Ken Ferris