Asian Champions League: Kashima Antlers stunned at home by Gyeongnam FC
Reigning champions relinquish control in Group E to Shandong Luneng, who won 1-0 at Johor Darul Tazim
Reigning champions Kashima Antlers slumped to a shock 1-0 home defeat by Gyeongnam FC on Wednesday on a great night for South Korean sides against Japanese opposition the Asian Champions League.
Kashima looked a shadow of the side that became Asian champions last year as they relinquished control in Group E to Shandong Luneng, who won 1-0 at Johor Darul Tazim via Graziano Pelle's first-half goal to go top on eight points.
Fellow Koreans Jeonbuk Motors stand on the verge of the last-16 after a man-of-the-match performance from Ricardo Lopes gave them a 2-1 win against Urawa Red Diamonds in Group G.
Lopes opened the scoring in the 12th minute, capitalising on a defensive error to lash an unstoppable right-foot rocket into the bottom corner.
The Brazilian then turned provider just after half-time, crossing from the left for giant striker Kim Shin-wook to head home at the near post.
A missed clearance by captain Hong Jeong-ho allowed Shinzo Koroki to pull one back against the run of play in the 58th minute, but Jeonbuk survived a nervy finale to take all three points in the top-of-the-table clash.
Jeonbuk now need just one win from their last two matches to guarantee a place in the knockout phase.
Urawa's defeat enabled Beijing Guoan to move into second, two points behind Jeonbuk, as Brazilian international Renato Augusto scored a penalty and made the second goal in a deserved 2-0 win over Thailand's Buriram United.
In wet and cold conditions in Beijing, the Chinese Super League leaders dominated but Buriram held out until the 55th minute when Thai international Sasalak Haiprakhon handled in the box and Augusto stepped up to ram home.
Beijing, who have started the league season with six straight wins, sealed all three points when the 31-year-old Augusto picked out Ba Dun to head in from close range.
Two weeks ago, the 2018 AFC Champions League winners Kashima had needed two stoppage-time goals to claim a 3-2 victory over Gyeongnam after having been 2-0 down and reduced to 10 men.
But there was no repeat of those heroics as Gyeongnam gave themselves a qualification lifeline when Takahiro Kunimoto latched onto Jordon Mutch's deep cross in the 63rd minute.
Gyeongnam remain third in Group E with two games to play, two points behind Kashima, who have seven, and three adrift of Shandong, their next opponents.
Shandong's Pelle, this season's leading AFC Champions League scorer, continued his deadly form in front of goal as he bagged his sixth in four matches to give the Chinese side a hard-fought victory against the Malaysian champions.
The former Southampton and Italy poacher bundled home from inside the six-yard box in the 22nd minute after Song Long's cross had created confusion in the Johor defence.
Updated: April 24, 2019 07:37 PM