This week in the Asian Champions League it’s Japan versus China. On Tuesday April 7th, it’s Kashima Antlers vs Guangzhou Evergrande. On Wednesday April 8th, it’s Urawa Reds vs Beijing Guoan and Shandong Luneng vs Kashiwa Reysol. Never has the Chinese Super League had a better opportunity to stamp it’s authority over their rival than this, and particularly in the fixtures based in Japan.
First, China’s inimitable Guangzhou Evergrande line up against Kashima Antlers, just two weeks after the J-League club went close to ambushing them in Canton. Kashima overturned Ricardo Goulart’s classy 10th minute header when youngster Shoma Doi made it 2-1. Of course the Chinese club equalised and went ahead when new acquisition Goulart struck again. The Brazilian dashed from the centre circle after a clumsy Kashima turnover and headed straight for the box, barely veering from his path before unleashing. At 3-2 Kashima had claims for a penalty turned down in the 83rd minute (watch video and decide for yourself), but there were still more goals.
Finishing 4-3, Guangzhou Evergrande were lucky to escape in a fixture that painted a brighter picture for the struggling J-League. Kashima put on a bold show, unlike that of many a J-League side before them (in recent years). With their knockout stage hopes on death row, a desperate Antlers will surely provide another daring display on Tuesday night, worthy of the ‘Champions League’ tag.
Twenty four hours after Kashima fights for their Asian Champions League survival, Urawa Reds face up to a confident Beijing Guoan. The team in green from the Chinese capital are unbeaten in their last 18 matches. If you scan back to August 13th, 2014 you’ll eye Beijing Guoan’s loss to Guangzhou R&F. Most recently they put on a second half schooling of Tim Cahill’s Shanghai Shenhua.
Urawa themselves are undefeated in four domestic outings, but the continental competition has proven a bridge too far. The J-League’s leading club has been beaten in all three ACL outings. Though dispatched 2-0 by Beijing at the Worker’s Stadium two weeks ago, the Japanese club had their share of opportunities. Also worth noting is that it was a goalkeeping blunder from Nishikawa in the 78th minute that allowed Beijing Guoan to go ahead.
Shandong will host the surprising Kashiwa Reysol, who have defied the trend of J-League clubs failing on the ACL stage – remaining undefeated after three matches. The Sun Kings looked a level above Shandong two weeks ago, but the Chinese club will be at home and they’ll be desperate.
However, East Asia’s focus will be on the clash of the heavyweights. Kashima, the J-League’s most successful club faces the ignominy of being booted out of the Asian Champions League while on zero and by none other than Guangzhou Evergrande, the symbol of China’s rising soccer status. Meanwhile, it will be no less shameful for Urawa. Skulking alone at the bottom of Group G with zero points, the club whose fans are undoubtedly the best in the J-League, faces the likelihood of being swept aside by the resurgent Beijing Guoan.
In Tuesday’s match at Kashima the home team has the flying Mu Kanazaki (if he’s recovered from a boot to the face on last Friday) lining up against ACL top goalscorer Ricardo Goulart and Elkeson. While on Wednesday at Saitama the home team will have their work cut out for them containing big Dejan Damjanovic and Chinese products Song, Boxuan and Chen, Zhizhao. Enjoy!