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Relegation Battlers Vissel Oust League Leaders Marinos in ACL Classic

An AFC Champions League classic was served up at the Saitama Stadium 2002 0n Thursday night, as Vissel Kobe edged out fellow Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos 3-2 to book their ticket to the quarterfinals.

Coming into Thursday’s round 0f 16 match, both Vissel and Yokohama had drastically contrasting fortunes in the domestic front – Vissel were third from bottom in the J.League 1 table this season and are fighting off a very realistic threat of relegation, while Yokohama are currently flying high in the J1 table, leading the league with a 5-point cushion over 2nd placed Kashima Antlers.

However, the domestic form book was thrown out of the window in the continental front as Vissel took the lead in the 7th minute of this all-Japanese tie. Former Sagan Tosu man Nanasei Iino managed to latch onto a Koya Yuruki pass before chipping the ball above Yokohama goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka to provide Vissel with the early breakthrough.

Yokohama gave an immediate response after going down so early in the game and in the 9th minute the men from Kanagawa Prefecture managed to draw things level. A cross from Teruhito Nakagawa was met by a powerful header from Takuma Nishimura that went past Daiya Maekawa in the Vissel goal, ensuring that the men from Hyogo Prefecture’s lead wouldn’t last too long.

Hotaru Yamaguchi tested Takoka twice throughout a breathless first half, before Vissel found themselves being handed an advantage in the 31st minute after Yokohama defender Yuki Saneto inadvertently handled the ball within the area. Daiju Sasaki was tasked in converting the ensuing penalty and he did his job confidently, allowing Vissel to reclaim their lead.

Nishimura almost gave another immediate response for Yokohama, but Maekawa was on-hand to deny the attacker, preserving Vissel’s lead as the match entered it’s half-time mark.

The second stanza saw Yokohama resume their pursuit for an equalizer. Ryuta Koike began the onslaught ten minutes into the second half with an attempt that was palmed away by Maekawa, before the Vissel goalkeeper was kept busy by Katsuya Nagasato and Elber bombarding his defenses.

Leo Osaki fired over the bar for Vissel before in the 80th minute, the men from Hyogo Prefecture got themselves some breathing space. Vissel managed to slice their way through the Yokohama defense, with Yamaguchi laying the ball off towards substitute Yutaro Oda, who rifled home past Takaoka.

Anderson Lopes gave Vissel a scare after his 89th minute attempt found its way past Maekawa, however Vissel held onto their nerves and saw out the win, advancing into the ACL quarterfinals for the second time in their history.

Thursday’s other round of 16 match saw South Korean sides Daegu FC and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors going head-to-head at the Urawa Komaba Stadium. Song Min-kyu gave 2-time ACL winners Jeonbuk the lead in the 46th minute, however Daegu’s Zeca equalized ten minutes afterwards. No further goals were scored after 90 minutes and a good chunk of extra-time saw the scoreline poised in a 1-1 draw.

With penalties looming, Kim Jin-kyu lashed home Jeonbuk’s winner with literally the last kick of the game, securing a quarterfinal ticket for the South Korean giants.

Southeast Asian sides BG Pathum United and Johor Darul Ta’zim are seeking to follow in the footsteps of their more established brethen as they took on tough opposition in their own round of 16 matches. BGPU will take on Kitchee SC of Hong Kong at the Urawa Komaba Stadium in Friday’s early kick-off, while the late match saw hosts Urawa take on JDT at the Saitama Stadium 2002.