Last-gasp Kobayashi holds nerve to deny Guangzhou

Guangzhou (AFP) – Kawasaki Frontale captain Yu Kobayashi coolly chipped home a penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage time to grab a richly deserved 1-1 draw at Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday in the AFC Champions League.

The Japanese side laid siege to the two-time Asian champions’ goalmouth after the prolific Brazilian striker Alan put the home side ahead in the 26th minute with his third goal in three Champions League outings.

Frontale were denied time and again after half time by a series of saves using hands, feet and body by goalkeeper Zeng Cheng. 

And Kobayashi must have thought it was destined not to be his night when he finally beat Zeng with a 71st-minute snap-shot across goal after a sweet turn, only to see the ball cannon back off the foot of the post. 

But deep into injury time Frontale’s persistence paid off when Evergrande’s Yu Hanchao made a hash of a clearance near the edge of his penalty area resulting in the ball striking first his left and then his right arm. 

Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim had no choice but to point to the spot, despite the protests of the Evergrande players and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who believed that the contact occurred outside the box. 

Kobayashi’s last-gasp leveller leaves Group G wide open with Kawasaki closing to two points behind Guangzhou and Suwon Bluewings, who both have five points after the South Korean side beat Hong Kong minnows Eastern 1-0 away. 

Suwon left it late against the Hong Kong side, who are in their first Champions League campaign, Brazilian Johnathan popping up with the headed winner from Yeom Ki-Hun’s cross 12 minutes from time at Mongkok Stadium. 

Another Japanese side, Kashima Antlers, took pole position in Group E with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Brisbane Roar. 

South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai’s lacklustre 0-0 draw with Muangthong United allowed the reigning J-League champions to leapfrog the undefeated Thai side in the Group E standings with six points from three matches.

Brisbane are rock-bottom having only managed a draw and two defeats. 

Kashima dominated and broke the deadlock when right-back Yukitoshi Ito’s cross in the 43rd minute was met by Yuma Suzuki, who powered home a volley on the turn into the bottom corner of Jamie Young’s goal. 

The Brisbane goalkeeper was then cruelly credited with an own goal in the 76th minute despite Naomichi Ueda seemingly kicking the ball from the keeper’s grasp during a near-post scramble following a corner. 

Three minutes later Young was powerless to stop Kashima sealing the three points when Yasushi Endo cut inside and fired home an unstoppable left-footed finish into the far corner. 

– Tabata at double –

In Doha, captain Rodrigo Tabata was on target twice as Qatar’s Al Rayyan jumped top of Group D with a 3-1 win over Iranian side Persepolis.

Persepolis took a sixth-minute lead through Mehdi Taremi but the home side got their act together quickly to dominate.

Tabata, of Japanese-Brazilian heritage and now a Qatari international, equalised and then scored from the spot on 58 minutes.

Former Barcelona player Sergio Garcia completed Persepolis’s misery with a late goal as the Iranians dropped to third.

Lekhwiya, the second Qatari club in the competition, secured a point after a 1-1 draw with Iran’s Esteghlal Khuzestan in Group B.  

Saudi side Al Fateh beat UAE’s Al Jazira 3-1, also in Group B, while Al Wahda, also from UAE, drew 2-2 with Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in Group D.

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