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Urawa into ACL knockout stage as Frontale eliminated

Two-time Asian champion Urawa Reds beat China’s Shandong Taishan FC 5-0 to finish top of Asian Champions League Group F and earn a spot in the round of 16 on Saturday, while J. League champions Kawasaki Frontale finished second in Group I and were eliminated.

Manager Ricardo Rodriguez’s Reds opened the scoring at Thailand’s Buriram City Stadium, through Kaito Yasui in the 13th minute with Tetsuya Chinen and Yusuke Matsuo both adding braces.

Urawa will now progress to the knockout round as it eyes its first Asian title since 2017.

Frontale defeated China’s Guangzhou FC 1-0 but finished second after Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim snatched the top spot in dramatic fashion.

With three teams fighting for first place in Group I, Malaysian champion JDT clinched the group’s sole automatic round-of-16 berth by beating Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 when the South Koreans conceded an own goal with the last kick of the game.

Toru Oniki’s Kawasaki squad started the final match day in third place and needed a win over the already-eliminated Guangzhou, along with a stalemate between JDT and Ulsan, to finish top of the group.

The J. League champions made a strong start at Johor’s Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium when Kei Chinen collected Yu Kobayashi’s through ball and scored from the middle of a crowded area in the 14th minute.

They continued to dominate the match but were otherwise frustrated by a stubborn Guangzhou side that had capitulated 8-0 in the teams’ previous group-stage meeting on April 18.

In the other Group I clash at Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, both teams hit the post in injury time before Ulsan substitute Park Yong Woo put the ball into his own net in the 94th minute, sending the 2020 champions out of the tournament.

With the victory at their home stadium, JDT became the first Malaysian club to reach the ACL round of 16 since the start of the tournament.

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