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Japan, Korea teams reach Champions League quarters

24 June 2009 18:15

TOKYO (AFP) - Defending champions Gamba Osaka crashed out of the AFC Champions League on Wednesday, but Japanese and Korean teams booked four places in the quarter-finals.

J-League sides Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus together with FC Seoul and Pohang Steelers from the K-League join west zone teams Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, Umm-Salal of Qatar, Pakhtakor and Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals in September.

Osaka failed to keep a goal lead despite two from Brazilian striker Leandro before losing to Kawasaki 3-2 as Japan international Kengo Nakamura, Brazilian Renatinho and Masaru Kurotsu secured a come-from-behind victory.

Nakamura also set up Kurotsu's decider.

"I was very disappointed," said a dejected Osaka coach Akira Nishino. "Key players came back from injuries and we played better than I had expected. But we lost goals when my players slowed down in the second half."

"But it was our best eleven. I was really disappointed, because we cannot play in the Champions League any more while we are regaining our best form," added Nishino.

Japan international forward Keiji Tamada scored the decider in the 66th minute to give Nagoya a 2-1 home win over South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

"It was really a tough game, but we ended with a win. It gives us a lot of confidence to reach the last eight in Asia," said Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic.

In an exciting game at the Kashima stadium, Seoul came back from behind to beat J-League champions Kashima Antlers 5-4 in a penalty shootout after drawing 2-2 after regulation and extra time.

Forward Shinzo Koroki opened the scoring in the fifth minute when defender Park Yong-Ho's clearance bounded towards his goal and Koroki hit it into the net.

But Seoul made it even in the 22nd minute as defenders Atsuto Uchida and Daiki Iwamasa failed to clear a right cross, allowing the Koreans to pick up the rebound for the equaliser.

One minute later, Seoul had a chance to get ahead, but Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic's shot hit the right post and Masahiko Inoha cleared the rebound.

Kashima got off to a flying start in the second half.

Iwamasa's header on a left corner from Mitsuo Ogasawara was saved by goalkeeper Kim Ho-Jun, but Takeshi Aoki made no mistake on the following corner, nodding home in the 50th minute.

But Kashima suffered a major setback when skipper Mitsuo Ogasawara received a second yellow card, allowing midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng to fire an equaliser on a free kick in the 78th minute.

"It was an exciting game between the top teams from the K-League and the J-League. I said before that the winners of this game will reach the final. I sill think so," said Seoul's Turkish coach Senol Gunex.

"In the second half, Kashima lost one player, but they played excellent. I'm really happy that we won today. Hopefully, we can keep winning the up-coming games as well," he added.

Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira said: "Unfortunately, we lost a penalty shootout, but my players performed very well for 120 minutes. Even after we were reduced to 10 men, we created many chances."

"Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We just ended with a defeat today. Hopefully we can win the J-League and come back to the Champions League next year again."

In South Korea, midfielder Choi Hyo-Jin scored a hat-trick to lead Pohang to a 6-0 thrashing of Australia's Newcastle Jets, while Brazilian Denilson tormented the visitors, scoring one and setting up two others.

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