Asia AFC Champions League

Frontale Drew First Blood in Thrilling R16 First Leg

Kawasaki Frontale survived a hostile Jinan Olympic Sports Center to gain a slender advantage over Shandong Taishan in their 2023 AFC Champions League round of 16 encounter, with the Japanese side edging out their Chinese opponents 3-2 on Tuesday.

Shandong’s Brazilian striker Jadson propelled his attempt past Jung Sung-ryong in the Kawasaki goal with just four minutes remaining, granting hope to the Chinese Super League team of advancing, despite trailing by two goals twice in a thrilling return to continental action for both clubs.

Erison and Marcinho had established a comfortable lead for Kawasaki by the 33rd minute, but Fei Nanduo’s goal injected renewed belief into an improved Shandong side in the second half, before Akihiro Ienaga reinstated the J.League 1 team’s advantage.

However, Jadson’s header in the 86th minute reduced the deficit once more, leaving the tie finely balanced ahead of the return leg at the Todoroki Stadium the following Tuesday.

Shandong began brightly, with Valeri Qazaishvili, freshly signed from South Korean champions Ulsan HD, testing Jung with a shot in the fifth minute, followed by another save to deny Cryzan’s attempt two minutes later.

Kawasaki’s Erison – himself being newly signed by the J1 side from Brazilian powerhouses Botafogo – missed chances with a header and a shot over the bar, while Jesiel’s close-range effort from an Ienaga corner was saved by Wang Dalei. Erison then forced the Shandong keeper to divert another effort around the post.

The pressure from Kawasaki paid off in the 28th minute when Li Yuanyi handled Ienaga’s corner, leading to a penalty after a pitch-side review by referee Mohammed Taqi. Erison calmly converted from the spot for his debut goal to give Kawasaki the lead before five minutes later Marcinho made it 2-0, finishing a well-worked move with a diving header from Yasuto Wakizaka’s cross.

Chen Pu’s attempt to pull one back for Shandong was thwarted by Jung’s save just before halftime, while Cryzan missed narrowly early in the second half.

Cryzan and former Borneo FC Samarinda striker Matheus Pato posed increasing problems for the Kawasaki defense as the half progressed, and in the 66th minute, Shandong’s improved performance after the break was rewarded when substitute Fei Nanduo found the net from distance.

Despite Shandong hitting the post with a header from Cryzan and increasing their intensity, Ienaga struck again for Kawasaki, capitalizing on Shin Yamada’s header to slot past Wang.

Nevertheless, Jadson’s powerful header from a cross by Gao Zhunyi on the right wing ensured that the Chinese side remained hopeful of progressing to the quarter-finals.