전북 현대 모터스 (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors) 0 柏レイソル (Kashiwa Reysol) 2

Kashiwa Reysol were just moments away from being the beneficiaries of a draw between Buriram United and Guangzhou Evergrande which would have seen them win Group H and play the single elimination Round of 16 match at the Hitachi Soccer Stadium, before Dario Conca scored a last-minute penalty for the Southern China Tigers which changed both their opponents and destination in the next stage of the AFC Champions League.

Manager Nelsinho, who must now return to South Korea with the Sun Kings to face conquerers of FC Tokyo and Group F winners Ulsan Hyundai, will have been satisfied by the manner in which his players stifled Jeonbuk at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium, and beyond a late penalty for the home side that Lee Dong-Gook failed to convert, they created significantly better goalscoring opportunities.

The first half passed by with very little to recommend it, Jeonbuk perfectly content to sit deep and defend their superior position in the table against a Reysol side whose only hope of qualification was in taking all three points, and in the knowledge that the reigning J.League champions had won just twice away from home in 2012. Only Jorge Wagner forced Kim Min-Sik into making a save in the opening period, the left-midfielder running on to a Masato Kudo flick-on after a chipped Leandro Domingues cross, and the Brazilian whipped a left-footed shot from left of the eighteen-yard area which the goalkeeper beat away at his near post.

The crucial goal came shortly after the restart, courtesy of a defensive mix-up between Kim Sang-Sik and Jin Kyung-Sun. Naoya Kondo, stationed behind halfway, launched a long ball downfield which Sang-Sik could easily have cleared, but he chose instead to nod back to his teammate. Under pressure from Masato Kudo, the defender’s touch was too heavy, allowing Junya Tanaka to intercept and knock the ball into the path of an overlapping Leandro Domingues. The 2011 J.League Player of the Year took one touch before sending a low right-footed shot across Kim and into the bottom left corner of the goal.

It was a strike that changed the internal dynamics of the match, year’s K-League title winners forced on to the offensive to ensure they weren’t reliant on the only possible permutation of a draw in Thailand that would send them into the knockout stages, and in turn Reysol were able to exploit space in midfield which they hadn’t previously been afforded.

Five minutes later Naoya Kondo wasted a superb opportunity to extend the visitors’ lead. Jorge Wagner drifted a lazy set-piece from midfield into the penalty area, which Daisuke Nasu rose to meet and head back across goal. Kondo attempted to steer the ball inside the near post, but failed to find the right connection with his diving header from six yards when unmarked.

However, the more expansive play of the home side continued to present opportunities for Reysol to play on the counter-attack, and the game was largely over as a contest in the 63rd minute as a result of a move which Junya Tanaka started and finished. Picking up the ball in midfield, he shifted the ball to Leandro Domingues, whose first-time pass released the ever-adventurous Hiroki Sakai on the right-wing. The full-back squared for Domingues, who cut inside Kim Jung-Woo before driving left-footed from eighteen yards. While Kim Min-Sik saved smartly to his left, the goalkeeper was unlucky to see the ball roll against his upright, and Tanaka, who had continued his run, had the simplest of tap-ins.

Tanaka’s beautifully flighted pass with the edge of his right boot and back to goal deserved significantly more than Masato Kudo lobbing over the bar with only Min-Sik to beat, and Jeonbuk were gifted a way back into the match when Ali Hasan Ebrahim Abdulnabi pointed to the penalty spot, harshly judging Kondo to have fouled striker Lee Dong-Gook as both players went to ground. The decision was rendered irrelevant, however, as Dong-Gook’s powerful spot-kick beat the dive of Sugeno but not the woodwork, and the ball rebounded to safety. Time still remained for Jorge Wagner to bend a long-distance strike against the crossbar before Abdulnabi signalled for full-time, and last year’s finalists would learn later that they had been eliminated at the group stage, Conca’s penalty for Guangzhou condemning them to third place in Group H and an early exit.

Reysol will go into the last sixteen having seen Ulsan Hyundai’s victory over the Gas owed much to good fortune, and while they must travel to the Big Crown for the first of the knockout stages, should be confident that they can claim victory provided they perform to the same levels as in Jeonju.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Kashiwa Reysol
Goalscorers Min Goalscorers Min
Leandro Domingues 49
Tanaka 62
Substitutes Min Substitutes Min
Jin Kyung-Sun
Luiz Henrique
56 Mizuno
Hugo Droguett
Lee Seung-Hyun
56 Kudo
Lee Seung-Hyun
Jeong Seong-Hoon
Cautions Min Cautions Min
Jin Kyung-Sun 53 Otani 68
Park Won-Jae 75 Masushima 90+2

Jeonbuk Hundai Motors: 4-2-3-1/4-5-1 (Green); Kashiwa Reysol: 4-4-2 (Yellow)


AFC Champions League: Group H Matchday Six Round-up and Results

(Highlights of Kashiwa Reysol’s Group H Matchday Six victory which sent them into the Round of 16. The Sun Kings will now meet either fellow J.League Division 1 side FC Tokyo or South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai on 30 May for a place in the quarter-final)

Kashiwa Reysol travelled to the Jeonju World Cup Stadium knowing only a victory would suffice against K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to progress to the Round of 16. The Sun Kings ran out surprisingly comfortable winners, a 2-0 triumph coming courtesy of second-half goals from Leandro Domingues and Junya Tanaka. Lee Dong-Gook failed to convert a late penalty for the South Korean side, but they otherwise found chances difficult to come by, Naoya Kondo and Tatsuya Masushima excellent in defence for the visitors.

The result sent Reysol to the top of Group H temporarily, and until the 90th minute of the remaining tie they looked set for a home fixture in the Round of 16. Also requiring all three points to enter the knockout stages, Guangzhou Evergrande were being held at the Thunder Castle by Buriram United, a 49th minute goal from Gao Lin being cancelled out ten minutes later by Suriya Domtaisong, but a last gasp penalty from Dario Conca gave the Southern Chinese Tigers first place in the group and in so doing put last year’s finalists Jeonbuk out of the competition.

Second place in Group H means Reysol will play their Round of 16 elimination match against either FC Tokyo or Ulsan Hyundai away from home on 30 May. The Gas and the Horangi play at the Big Crown on 16 May, with the J.League side only requiring a point to maintain their pre-eminence in Group F.

(Kashiwa Reysol’s victory in South Korea against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors meant both Guangzhou Evergrande and Buriram United needed to win to advance to the latter stages of the tournament. The two sides missed a number of excellent chances to win the game, until Dario Conca converted a 90th minute spot-kick for the Chinese team)

Group H

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol Small Kashiwa Reysol
Domingues 49′
Tanaka 63′
Buriram United
Domtaisong 57′
1 Guangzhou Evergrande
Gao Lin 49′
Conca 90′ (pen.)
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Guangzhou Evergrande 6 3 1 2 12 8 +4 10
2 Kashiwa Reysol 6 3 1 2 11 7 +4 10
3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 6 3 0 3 10 15 -5 9
4 Buriram United 6 2 0 4 8 11 -3 6

AFC Champions League: Group H live-blog – 전북 현대 모터스 (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors) v. 柏レイソル (Kashiwa Reysol)

0 Min: Welcome to today’s match in the 2012 AFC Champions League, which pits the respective reigning K-League and J.League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Kashiwa Reysol against each other in a match the Sun Kings must win to qualify for the Round of 16. Reysol’s poor start to the domestic season has been well-documented on Football Japan, the gap between league leaders Vegalta Sendai and the Sun Kings currently thirteen points, while Jeonbuk are relatively comfortable in sixth position, merely five points behind table-topping Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

The South Korean side suffered from a dreadful opening to Group H, having been receiving end of 5-1 thrashings from Guangzhou Evergrande and Reysol, but since then have won three consecutive Group H games, including an impressive 3-1 victory at the Tianhe Stadium on Matchday Five to head the Group, and they have form in the competition, losing only on penalties to eventual winners in Al-Sadd in the 2011 final.

I’ll have team news for you from the Jeonju World Cup Stadium very soon.

0 Min: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors – Kim Min-Sik; Kim Sang-Sik, Jin Kyung-Sun, Choi Chul-Soon, Park Won-Jae; Eninho, Jung Hoon, Kim Jung-Woo, Hugo Droguett, Seo Sang-Min; Lee Dong-Gook

Substitutes – Lee Bum-Soo; Jeon Kwang-Hwan, Sim Woo-Yeon, Luiz Henrique; Lee Seung-Hyun, Kim Dong-Chan; Jeong Seong-Hoon

0 Min: Kashiwa Reysol – Sugeno; Kondo, Sakai, Masushima, Nasu; Otani, Leandro Domingues, Jorge Wagner, Barada; Tanaka, Kudo

Substitutes – Inada; Fukui, Sawa; An, Kurisawa, Mizuno; Hayashi

0 Min: We’re just about to kick-off at what appears a sparsely populated Jeonju World Cup Stadium, as the clock ticks over to 11:00 BST/19:00 JST.

1 Min: And Jeonbuk kick-off, in a match which I’ll re-iterate Reysol must win to proceed to the next round. Any other result seems them eliminated from the competition.

2 Mins: It would appear from the early moments that Hiroki Sakai has switched to a left-back position, and he wins a corner which Leandro Domingues will take.

3 Mins: Domingues sends his delivery beyond the first defender, but it’s well-cleared with a Kim Sang-Sik header.

4 Mins: Naoya Kondo gives away an unnecessary free-kick 10 yards outside the penalty area, which Eninho takes but Masushima heads well away from danger.

6 Mins: A spell of possession for the home side ends with Seo Sang-Min unceremoniously felled by Hidekazu Otani. Eninho attempts to strike from long distance, but it merely hits Tatsuya Masushima in the face.

9 Mins: A throw-in well inside the Jeonbuk half eventually makes its way to Hiroki Sakai, now back in his familiar position, whose left footed effort doesn’t trouble Kim Min-Sik.

10 Mins: Jorge Wagner is found in space on the left, which is too close to Kim in the Jeonbuk goal, and he collects easily.

10 Mins: Ten minutes played, it’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0.

12 Mins: Steady beginnings from Reysol against a Jeonbuk side who in the game’s opening minutes are quite content to sit deep.

14 Mins: The first hint of an opportunity for the Sun Kings, but a pass to Leandro Domingues forces him wider than he would have liked, and his cross from inside the penalty area is under the crossbar for Min-Sik to catch.

16 Mins: Otani catches Seo Sang-Min on the ankle, and Eninho’s long ball is headed backwards by Park Won-Jae well clear of Takanori Sugeno’s goal.

17 Mins: Excellent defending from Tatsuya Masushima prevents Hugo Droguett from latching on to Lee Dong-Gook’s header back across goal. Dong-Gook was ideally positioned to aim at goal, but perhaps in being unselfish chose the wrong option. A let-off for Reysol, which followed excellent work from Eninho.

20 Mins: Akimi Barada forces Choi Chul-Soon to conceded a corner, but Domingues’s delivery is straight into the arms of Kim Min-Sik.

23 Mins: Jorge Wagner forces Min-Sik into making a save, Domingues chipping a ball into the penalty area which Kudo heads on, and the Brazilian whipped a shot left-footed which was beaten away at the near post for a corner. Yet again Domingues fails to find a Reysol player from the dead ball.

26 Mins: Reysol are working the ball patiently around in midfield, but in committing few players forward, they are significantly outmatched in central areas.

28 Mins: Naoya Kondo gives away an unnecessary set piece 30 yards from goal, climbing over the back of Lee Dong-Gook. The dead-ball routine, obviously practiced on the training ground, falls flat as it finds the back of Tatsuya Masushima and dribbles into the hands of Sugeno.

30 Mins: The clock shows thirty minutes played, and it’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0.

32 Mins: A good period of possession for Reysol ends with Daisuke Nasu lofting a ball over the Jeonbuk defence for Junya Tanaka, but the forward is narrowly offside. Tanaka would have had a clear run on goal if his timing had been marginally better.

35 Mins: Daisuke Nasu has a run down the Reysol left, but cuts in on to his weaker right foot, and slices his drive well-wide of Min-Sik’s right upright.

37 Mins: Kondo pulls the shirt of Lee Dong-Gook this time, and from the set piece they fail to clear. Otani connects with Seo Sang-Min’s ankle rather than ball, and it’s a free-kick for Jeonbuk from 30 yards. Eninho crashes his effort into the wall.

40 Mins: Masushima takes a long throw from the right, but Sakai impedes Park Won-Jae and the official blows for the foul.

43 Mins: It’s a tight, scrappy affair, two evenly matched midfields assisted by some solid defending, which is making for a fairly dreary encounter so far.

45 Mins: There will be one minute to be added on at the end of the first period. Reysol keep the ball in defence, and Saki nearly places Masushima in trouble with a weak back pass than Droguett came close to intercepting. The centre-back did well to recover.

45 Mins+1: And the officlal signals for the end of the first period.

HT: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0

HT: A dreary, flat first-half ends with little to recommend it, Wagner’s shot and Lee Dong-Gook’s header across goal the closest we have come to a goal. Reysol will be relatively satisfied with their performance, however, and have 45 minutes to find the single goal without reply that will take them through to the next stage of the competition.

46 Mins: Reysol get the second period going.

47 Mins: A bizarre decision from the Bahraini official to penalise Hidekazu Otani for a non-existent challenge on Eninho. Fortunately for Reysol the set piece is cleared.

49 Mins: GOAL! Leandro Domingues makes the crucial breakthrough after a defensive mix-up from Jeonbuk. He’s clear on the right inside the penalty area, and his low finish across Kim Min-Sik nestles in the bottom left-hand corner.

49 Mins: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 1

51 Mins: It’s a goal which will force Jeonbuk on the attack, their own progress resting on a draw in this match or better.

54 Mins: The first yellow card of the game is shown to Jin Kyung-Sun, ploughing into the back of Leandro Domingues. It’s a free-kick 40 yards from goal which Wagner bends left-footed into the penalty area. It’s headed on by Daisuke Nasu, and Naoya Kondo dives to meet the ball which he nods inches wide. Will the miss prove costly to the Sun Kings?

56 Mins: Lee Sung-Hyun enters play in place of Hugo Droguett.

58 Mins: A small break in play as Naoya Kondo goes down under an aerial challenge from Lee Dong-Gook.

60 Mins: A pass from sends Masato Kudo through one-on-one with Min-Sik, but it’s just a little too heavy and with the South Korean goalkeeper off his line quickly, he claims.

60 Mins: Half an hour left to play plus any stoppages, it’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 1.

61 Mins: Reysol look like they are capable of attacking a more advanced Jeonbuk side on the break, and have nearly broken through twice more.

63 Mins: GOAL! A lovely break down the right sees Hiroki Sakai square a ball to Leandro Domingues, and he cuts inside Kim Jung-Woo before shooting left-footed from twelve yards. Kim Min-Sik save’s well diving to his left, but the ball rolls against the post and Junya Tanaka is on hard to complete the simplest of tap-ins.

63 Mins: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 2.

65 Mins: Masato Kudo should have ended this contest. Otani played a pass to Tanaka, and with his back to goal he neatly chipped the ball over his shoulder to the on-rushing Kudo. Kudo’s attemped lob over Min-Sik, however, clears the crossbar.

68 Mins: It’s one foul too many for Hidekazu Otani, who chops down Lee Seung-Hyun on the left and he is the first Reysol player into the notebook.

69 Mins: Leandro Domingues is clearly pulled back by Park Won-Jae running through the middle, when he would have advanced one-on-one by Min-Sik. Had it been seen by the official, it would almost certainly have merited a red card.

73 Mins: Lee Seung-Hyun, who only came on to the pitch 17 minutes ago, is replaced by Jeong Seong-Hoon.

74 Mins: Reysol are passing the ball around in midfield with ease, but ideally would find the third to completely kill off this match as a contest.

75 Mins: Excellent play from Hiroki Sakai on the right, beating Park Won-Jae and the defend is shown a yellow card for pulling back the defender.

76 Mins: The set piece is to the right of the Jeonbuk penalty area. Wagner’s ball curls goalwards, and Min-Sik’s punch is weak but eventually cleared away.

77 Mins: PENALTY! It’s a very debatable decision, Naoya Kondo challenging seemingly fairly with Lee Dong-Gook as both players went to ground, but the official pointing to the spot.

78 Mins: The decision is made an irrelevance as Lee Dong-Gook beats Takanori Sugeno, but his spot kick strikes the post and rebounds away from goal. Sugeno dived the right way but would not have saved had his effort been more precise.

80 Mins: Ten minutes left to play, it’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 2.

82 Mins: After Sakai, Domingues, Wagner, Barada and Tanaka are all involved in midfield eventually Tanaka tries his luck from distance, Min-Sik diving to his left to save.

83 Mins: The first change for Kashiwa Reysol, and the last action for Junya Tanaka, as he makes way for Koki Mizuno.

86 Mins: After some late pressure from Jeonbuk but in which they have been unable to test Sugeno, Masato Kudo exits the field for Ryohei Hayashi. Unless Buriram United and Guangzhou Evergrande draw in Thailand, last year’s finalists will exit the 2012 tournament at the group stage.

88 Mins: The seconds are counting down and Reysol are in possession in midfield. Mizuno is challenged unfairly by Jung Hoon, ceding a free-kick to Reysol forty yards away. Hayashi controls Domingues’s lofted ball into the 18-yard area, and wins a corner off Jung Hoon.

90 Mins: While the corner is poor, Reysol are now three minutes away from the Round of 16.

90 Mins+2: It certainly won’t be Jeonbuk’s night. Jeung Seong-Hoon is inches away from a ball which flashes across Sugeno’s six-yard box, but can’t apply the finishing touch with is outstretched leg.

90 Mins+3: CROSSBAR! Jorge Wagner’s bending effort from distance thuds against Min-Sik’s bar with the goalkeeper beaten, but it doesn’t matter as the official blows his whistle for full-time, and Kashiwa Reysol are into the Round of 16.

FT: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0 Kashiwa Reysol 2

FT: A surprisingly easy win for Reysol, against a side which beyond Lee Dong-Gook’s spot kick failed to provide any test for Takanori Sugeno. Masushima and Kondo were excellent in defence, and Hiroki Sakai provided confirmation of what will be missed as he was a constant menace on the right flank. The Sun Kings go top of Group H temporarily, and both Reysol and Jeonbuk now await the result of Buriram United versus Guangzhou Evergrande with interest.

FT: Thank you for joining me. A full match report will appear on

AFC Champions League: Group H Matchday Five Round-up and Result

(The main highlights from Kashiwa Reysol’s success over Buriram United on Matchday Five of the AFC Champions League, including Leandro Domingues’ outstanding individual effort which means the Sun Kings are once again in control of their own destiny in Group H)

A fascinating final day is in store in Group H of the 2012 AFC Champions League, as Kashiwa Reysol won a crucial tie versus Buriram United 1-0 at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium, but their chances of qualifying for for the Round of 16 were made more difficult by Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors coming from behind in Guangzhou to defeat Evergrande 3-1. Had the Southern China Tigers taken just a point at home, the Sun Kings would have only needed to draw at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium on 15 May to progress, but they now must win in South Korea against a team they defeated 5-1 on Matchday One.

Leandro Domingues scored the only goal of the tie with a wonderful individual effort 24 minutes into the first half. Gathering a pass from Ricardo Lobo midway inside Buriram’s half, he glided past three challenges before planting a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner from sixteen yards. The Thunder Castle, who were restricted to shots from distance and were unable to beat replacement goalkeeper Koji Inada, in fine form in the Reysol goal, must now rely on Kashiwa Reysol failing to overcome Jeonbuk and win their remaining fixture against Evergrande to make the cut for the latter stages of the tournament.

Group H

Kashiwa Reysol
Leandro Domingues 24′
1 Buriram United 0
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 5 3 0 2 10 13 -3 9
2 Guangzhou Evergrande 5 2 1 2 10 7 +3 7
3 Kashiwa Reysol 5 2 1 2 9 7 +2 7
4 Buriram United 5 2 0 3 7 9 -1 6

AFC Champions League: Group H Matchday Four Table

(All the goals from the 2012 AFC Champions League Group H fixture between Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Buriram United on 17 April. A brace from Dong-Gook Lee and Frank Ohandza respectively kept the scores at 2-2 until the 80th minute, when Won-Jae Park scored the winner for the home side at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Jeonbuk and Buriram are separated by goal difference in second and third, with qualification likely to come down to results in the final Group H matches on 15 May)

Group H

Position Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Guangzhou Evergrande 4 2 1 1 9 4 +5 7
2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 4 2 0 2 7 12 -5 6
3 Buriram United 4 2 0 2 7 8 -1 6
4 Kashiwa Reysol 4 1 1 2 8 7 +1 4

AFC Champions League: Group H Matchday Four Round-up and Result

Kashiwa Reysol defender Hirofumi Watanabe brings down Guangzhou Evergrande centre forward Muriqui outside the 18-yard box. Referee Abdulrahman Abdou incorrectly pointed to the spot, and Dario Conca converted the resulting spot kick to give Evergrande a 1-0 lead in the AFC Champions League Group H fixture on 17 April. The Chinese Super League champions would win the match 3-1.

Kashiwa Reysol must now rely on results elsewhere in Group H if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the 2012 AFC Champions League, after they collapsed to a 3-1 loss to Guangzhou Evergrande at the Tianhe Stadium. Starting the day in second place on goal difference from the reigning Chinese Super League champions, Reysol fell behind on 28 minutes to a Dario Conca penalty, but the Sun Kings justifiably had some complaint over Abdulrahman Abdou’s decision to point to the spot. Defender Hirofumi Watanabe, who misjudged the pace of a long ball out of the Evergrande defence, became locked in a sprint with opposition forward Muriqui, but while the Guangzhou player was certainly upended, the infringement clearly took place a yard outside the penalty box (See photo above). Conca subsequently converted the spot kick, blasting into the bottom right with Sun Kings goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno.

Right-back Hiroki Sakai gave Reysol some hope five minutes into the second half when he capitalised on the failure of the Evergrande defence to clear a Leandro Domingues free kick. The Brazilian whipped a cross in from the right of the penalty area, and two attempted Guangzhou headers only resulting in the ball dropping outside the six-yard box, and the 23 year-old reacted sharply to drive home from short range.

However, Reysol hopes were short-lived as the Southern China Tigers were back in front only seven minutes later. With only Sakai covering, defender Sun Xiang played a pass to Gao Lin, and the left-back continued his run to the left of the Reysol penalty area, Xiang returning the ball into his path. A first time cross was pulled back to the penalty spot, and Muriqui headed down and over Sugeno.

Miriqui made sure of the victory with six minutes of normal time remaining and Reysol chasing an equaliser, and manager Nelsinho should be concerned about the ease with which four of his players failed to prevent a goal being scored when created by just two attacking players. Receiving the ball ten yards inside the Reysol half, Muriqui turned and drilled a pass sideways to teammate Cléo. Cléo’s return pass split Hidekazu Otani and Watanabe, and Sakai did not do enough to prevent Muriqui firing a powerful shot from 16 yards across Sugeno into the bottom left corner.

The result leaves the Sun Kings at the bottom of Group H with two group matches remaining, two points behind second place. Reysol will be eliminated from the competition if they are defeated by Buriram United at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium on 1 May.

Group H

Guangzhou Evergrande
Conca 28′ (pen.)
Muriqui 57′, 84′
3 Kashiwa Reysol
Sakai 50′

柏レイソル (Kashiwa Reysol) 0 広州恒大 (Guangzhou Evergrande) 0

Kashiwa Reysol line-up for the official photo before the AFC Champions League Group H fixture with Guangzhou Evergrande on 4 April, which ended 0-0. Reysol are second in Group H on goal difference with three matches remaining (Image courtesy official Kashiwa Reysol website)

The Sun Kings took a point in a tactically interesting but otherwise excitement-free contest in Wednesday’s Group H AFC Champions League against Chinese Super League title holders Guangzhou Evergrande, but they will need to produce a better performance in the return fixture if they are to avoid a repeat of a home leg in which they were outplayed by technically superior opponents for large periods.

Manager Nelsinho chose to make three changes to the team which stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Jubilo Iwata, Ryoji Fukui coming in at left-back for his first appearance for Kashiwa Reysol, while Tatsuya Masushima was favoured over Daisuke Nasu at centre-back and Leandro Domingues returned to the heart of midfield, Koki Mizuno the player to make way.

Within the first minute the attacking intent of the Southern China Dragons was made clear. A defence splitting pass found Muriqui, and with Masushima holding the Brazilian winger and pulling him to the floor, the referee overlooked a clear penalty claim as Cleo followed up on the loose ball but lashed his shot over the crossbar.

Defensive frailties have cost Reysol on a number of occasions already this season, and they were nearly made to pay three minutes later when Masushima failed to clear a cross from Gao Lin on the right, the ball dropping to Xiang on the edge of the penalty area whose strike only narrowly cleared the bar.

Reysol attempted to use a favoured tactic of Leandro Domingues sliding a ball to overlapping full-back on a few occasions, but the channel was largely closed down by the interesting shape adopted by Evergrande. What at times appeared an orthodox 4-2-3-1 shifted to a 2-5-3, the forwards pressing tightly on Reysol’s defensive line and forcing them to cede possession, while the crowded midfield meant Domingues had both little time in possession and space to pass in to. One of the limited successes was on the 10 minute mark when Sakai latched on to a pass and drifted into the box, but his pull back was too strong for the arriving Jorge Wagner, and then moments later Domingues found Sakai again, his cross headed back to the waiting Domingues by Masato Kudo, but the Brazilian midfielder found his shot blocked.

Midway through the first period Reysol had a brief glimpse of goal. Sakai, probably Reysol’s best performer of the evening, escaped the challenge of Sun Xiang, and although the subsequent cross slightly too high for Junya Tanaka, the forward did extremely well to glance a knock-down to Wagner, and his sliding right-footed shot was just wide of the upright.

Takanori Sugeno was the first of the goalkeepers called into action on the night. Half an hour had been played when Dario Conca, the elusive Argentinian midfielder whose $10.4 million annual salary makes him among the highest paid players in the world, lined up a free-kick from 35 yards after Muriqui had been brought down. His powerful shot cleared the Reysol wall, but was straight at Sugeno, who punched long to clear.

With thirteen minutes to go in the first period, it was Yang Jun’s turn to make a save. Domingues had a rare sight of goal, and he bent a low left-footed shot from 18 yards, which Jun gather comfortably to his right. The home side and manager were visibly frustrated towards the end of the half, passes being misplaced and a very high defensive line from Evergrande regularly catching Reysol forwards in an offside position. As the half drew to a close, the question would be whether Nelsinho would shuffle the side and formation to deal with tactics meant to stifle their attacking play and catch the Sun Kings on the counter-attack.

Unfortunately for Reysol, the second-half began in similar fashion to the first. After Tanaka had been caught offside within the very first minute, only two excellent tackles, first from Sakai and then from Naoyo Kondo, prevented both Muriqui and Cleo having just Sugeno to beat. Twelve minutes had elapsed in the second period when Masushima was then required to make a last-ditch block, Conca crossing and Gao Lin turning Sakai before the centre-back ensured the shot was deflected away for a corner.

Captain Hidekazu Otani and Leandro Domingues were still struggling to get a foothold in the midfield, but with 25 minutes on the clock Nelsinho opted not to reinforce the midfield, instead opting to replace Junya Tanaka with Akimi Barada, and two minutes later the naivety of the substitution was underlined when Kudo was caught offside once more.

70 minutes had passed when Reysol finally appeared to find some possession, coinciding with substitute Ricardo Lobo coming on for Masato Kudo, Lobo acting as a pivot between the midfield and Akimi Barada when all too often the Reysol forward line had been isolated. The Sun Kings had to endure a couple of nervous moments moving in to the last 10 minutes, but they had their two best opportunities of the match in quick succession, first Sakai breaking down the right-wing and whipping a cross which Lobo steered beyond Jun’s right post, and then on 81 minutes Jorge Wagner gaining possession on the left edge of the penalty area, his attempted shot was met by a sliding Lobo but with not enough purchase to send it into the goal, the ball only inches wide of the right post.

Both sides seemed satisfied to play out the remaining minutes and settle for a draw, but the Chinese side will be most content with the draw. Both sides are level on points in second place in Group H, but Evergrande with two matches to play at home, including the return fixture with Reysol at the Tianhe Stadium on 17 April.

Kashiwa Reysol Guangzhou Evergrande
Goalscorers Min Goalscorers Min
Substitutes Min Substitutes Min
Junya Tanaka
Akimi Barada
Masato Kudo
Ricardo Lobo
Cautions Min Cautions Min
Ryoji Fukui 14
Ryoichi Kurisawa 64

Kashiwa Reysol: 4-4-2 (Yellow); Guangzhou Evergrande: 4-1-3-2/2-5-3 (Red)