Japan will have three teams in the AFC Champions League 2008 quarter-finals after the Kashima Antlers beat Nam Dinh 4-0 on Wednesday, but China PR are in danger of having none. While Kashima cruised in Hanoi, Beijing Guoan lost 5-3 to Krung Thai Bank in Bangkok, meaning the J.league outfit top Group F with 15 points, three ahead of Guoan.
With Gamba Osaka safely through and the Urawa Red Diamonds qualifying automatically as defending champions, Japan is the country to beat. Three other teams are into the knockout rounds of Asia's premier club competition; Uzbekistan's Kuruvchi, Saipa of Iran, and Kuwaiti hopefuls Al Qadsia.
China's last hope, Changchun Yatai, play Adelaide United on Thursday in a match postponed due to a three-day period of mourning for the victims of the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province. Changchun are placed second with 11 points, two less than Adelaide, and need to beat their Australian rivals to qualify.
The other undecided pool is Group C, where Syria's Al Karama and United Arab Emirates representatives Al Wahda have everything to play for. Karama have a two-point advantage going into Wednesday's home game against Al Ahly, putting the pressure on Al Wahda, who must beat Al Saad in the Qatari capital Doha.
Kashima dominate, Beijing destruct
A minute's silence was observed before every match on Wednesday in memory of the quake victims and the cyclone casualties in Myanmar, but when the game got underway in Hanoi, it was all Kashima. Their opening goal arrived in the 27th minute when a lofted pass from Mitsuo Ogasawara found Yuzo Tashiro, who slid a shot under the goalkeeper.
Shinzo Koroki made it 2-0 three minutes into the second half, and Kashima put the result beyond doubt with 15 minutes remaining when Masashi Motoyama stabbed home from close range. Substitute Danilo completed the scoring two minutes remaining.
Beijing knew they needed to win and hope Kashima lost or drew, but it failed to go as planned. Krung Thai Bank needed an early fillip and got it when they took the lead after 12 minutes. Peeraphong Pichitchotirat played in Nantawat Thaensopa on the edge of the area, and the striker produced a right-foot shot that keeper Yang Zhi could not stop.
Krung doubled their advantage just before the half-hour mark
with Peeraphong getting on the score-sheet, and it was 3-0 in
stoppage time when Nantawat picked up a loose ball and fired into
an empty net. They heaped further misery on Beijing four minutes
after the break when Nantawat slid home his third.
Tiago pulled one back after 68 minutes, but Krung re-established their four-goal advantage almost immediately when Nantawat netted his fourth. Two more late goals from Tiago made the scoreline respectable.
In other matches, Melbourne Victory ended their campaign on a winning note by beating Thailand's Chonburi FC 3-1, Vietnam's Binh Duong picked up their first point in a 0-0 stalemate with Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers, and the already-qualified Gamba Osaka shared the points with Chunnam Dragons after a 1-1 draw.