Reigning champions Western Sydney Wanderers crashed out of the AFC Champions League in dramatic fashion when a late strike from Mauricio Molina ensured Seoul beat Kashima Antlers 3-2 to progress from Group H.
Wanderers needed to win at group winners Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday and hope the game between Seoul and the Antlers ended in a draw in order to stay in the competition.
The A-League side kept their side of the bargain, securing a 2-0 victory at the Tianhe Stadium courtesy of Marc Bridge’s first-half goal and a fine stoppage-time strike from Tomi Juric.
Their exploits were in vain, though, as news filtered through that substitute Molina had grabbed a winner in time added on at the Kashima Soccer Stadium to put his side through at the expense of Tony Popovic’s men.
Shuhei Akasaki had put the Antlers in front after only eight minutes, but Lee Woong-hee levelled before half-time and a Gen Shoji own-goal early in the second half gave Seoul the lead for the first time.
The home side knew a win would secure their qualification and they were back on level terms courtesy of a Gaku Shibasaki goal 11 minutes from time, which ensured the Wanderers were set to progress having been bottom of the group ahead of the last round of group games.
There was a final twist, though, as the experienced Molina made himself a hero by snatching victory to put the K.League side through to the last 16.
Beijing Guoan and Suwon Bluewings qualified from Group G after playing out a 1-1 draw.
Brisbane Roar still harboured hopes of going through at the expense of either Guoan or the Bluewings, but a draw in Suwon ensured the visitors topped the group and Seo Jung-won’s men finished as runners-up.
As it turned out, Brisbane, who were eliminated from the A-League finals last Friday, suffered a 2-1 home defeat as goals from Shinzo Koroki and Yuko Muto gave the Urawa Reds their only group victory.
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