Brisbane (Australia) (AFP) – Brisbane Roar kept their AFC Champions League hopes flickering with a 2-1 win over Kashima Antlers as Thailand’s Muanthong United took advantage to go clear at the top of Group E.
Goals from striker Jamie Maclaren and midfielder Brett Holman gave the Roar a 2-0 lead before the Japanese champions pulled a goal back near the end in Brisbane.
It was the Australian side’s first win in their fourth match of the 2017 campaign and took them to four points.
Though they remain bottom of Group E with only the top two progressing, Brisbane are level on points with South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai FC, who lost 1-0 in Thailand, and crucially just two points adrift of Kashima who dropped to second.
“That’s a huge win for us,” Roar’s Danish midfielder Thomas Kristensen said.
“I saw them on television not long ago playing against Real Madrid and they probably should have won that game, so we know it was a quality squad.
“But we also believe in our team and we have some good players, so we deserved to win.”
Maclaren lashed home with his left foot for his side’s first goal of the campaign following a defensive error from Naomichi Ueda after 18 minutes.
Former Socceroo Holman doubled Brisbane’s lead four minutes after half-time, with an instinctive shot off a misguided clearance.
Kashima pulled one back 11 minutes from the end when substitute Ryota Nagaki blasted home but it was not enough to prevent only Brisbane’s third win in 16 AFC Champions League games.
They next face unbeaten leaders Muangthong in Thailand in two weeks’ time needing a win that could blow the group wide open and keep them in the hunt to qualify for the knockout stages.
Muangthong dominated for long periods against Ulsan, who faded after a bright start.
But the Thai side only had Teerasil Dangda’s close-range finish after 37 minutes to show for their domination.
They squandered a host of chances to extend their lead with Spanish forward Xisco wasteful on four occasions in front of goal.
With five minutes to go Adisak Kraisorn broke free and rounded goalkeeper Kim Yong-Dae only to see his shot cleared off the line.
– Suwon in pole position –
In Group G, Suwon Bluewings of South Korea took pole position to qualify as they all but eliminated Hong Kong side Eastern with a 5-0 drubbing in the Suwon World Cup Stadium.
Meanwhile there were no such fireworks in Japan as a sodden night put a dampener on China’s Guangzhou Evergrande who played out a dour 0-0 draw with Kawasaki Frontale.
Yeom Ki-Hun’s close-range header gave Suwon a slender 1-0 half-time lead and they stepped up a gear in the second half.
Ko Seung-Beom grabbed two more and Brazilian marksman Johnathan came off the bench to score twice in three minutes with precision shooting.
Suwon now lead the group on eight points from four matches, two ahead of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Evergrande.
The Bluewings will be guaranteed to fly into the knockout stages if they can avoid defeat at home to Kawasaki, who are third on four points, in their next match on April 25.
Eastern have just one point in their first Champions League campaign and face the might of former two-time champions Evergrande next, having lost 7-0 in Guangzhou in February.
Eastern coach Chan Yuen-ting said she was proud of her side’s first-half defending, but admitted Suwon were too strong.
“You could see all their finishing was high quality. They deserved five goals,” said Chan, who is the only woman to coach a men’s team to a top-flight domestic championship in world football.