Asia AFC Champions League

Ventforet Continue Fairy Tale with Crushing Win

Japan’s Ventforet Kofu continued their excellent AFC Champions League campaign with a crushing 4-1 win over China’s Zhejiang FC in Wednesday’s group stage match at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Zhejiang may had beaten Ventforet 2-0 during their first meeting in China on October 25th, however the J.League 2 side had the last laugh as they exacted revenge in emphatic manner on the reverse fixture, ensuring that ACL debutants Ventforet are still on track of qualifying out of their group.

In the initial 15 minutes of the match, Koya Hayashida and veteran striker Peter Utaka missed excellent opportunities to give Ventforet the lead. However, VAR intervened in favor of the Japanese side when they scored in the 17th minute. Utaka initially had a goal disallowed for offside, but the decision was reversed upon review, giving Ventforet a 1-0 lead.

Despite a fantastic double save by Zhejiang goalkeeper Zhao Bo, second-tier Ventforet almost increased their lead three minutes later, completely unfazed by their top-flight opponents. In the 34th minute, there were penalty shouts for Ventforet after the ball had struck Zhang Jiaqi’s hand in the box, but VAR dismissed the claims.

Before halftime, Ventforet capitalized on Zhejiang’s defensive lapse, with Getulio converting a Jumma Miyazaki cross to make it 2-0 in the second minute of added time. Zhejiang pulled one back early in the second half with a penalty converted by Leonardo in the 50th minute after he was fouled by Ventforet’s New Zealand international goalkeeper Michael Woud.

Ventforet restored their two-goal lead in the 58th minute when full-back and skipper Masahiro Sekiguchi scored from a tight angle following intricate passing on the right wing. Despite Zhejiang having more possession in the closing stages, they couldn’t capitalize, and Ventforet sealed the victory with a fourth goal in the 89th minute – Yoshiki Torikai latching onto a pass over the Zhejiang backline and slotted the ball past the goalkeeper.

Ventforet’s win, coupled with Buriram United’s 1-0 win away at Melbourne City, ensured that the J2 side share top spot of their group alongside the Australians, with their current point tally of seven already eclipsing those of two other second-tier sides who had competed in the ACL, Japan’s Tokyo Verdy in 2006 and Emirates Club of the United Arab Emirates in 2011. A win in Ventforet’s next match against Melbourne City at the National Stadium meant that the men from Yamanashi Prefecture would eclipse the eight points earned by South Korea’s Jeonnam Dragons last season.