2022 Emperor’s Cup champions Ventforet Kofu have become the first Japanese second-division team to advance to the knockout stage in the history of the Asian Champions League, sealing the top spot in Group H with a 3-2 win Tuesday over Thailand’s Buriram United.
Ventforet finished the group with three wins, two draws and a loss after the club took a 3-0 first-half lead at Buriram Stadium with well-traveled forward Peter Utaka scoring a brace and keeper Kohei Kawata making a save on a potential 88th-minute equalizer.
Motoki Hasegawa gave the visitors the lead 24 minutes in, dispossessing a defender and firing home from the left side of the penalty area.
Utaka, in his second stint with Ventforet, his sixth J. League club, scored a brace before halftime off some lucky bounces that Buriram defenders were unable to corral.
In the 38th minute, Utaka volleyed a cross into a defender’s chest but got to the rebound before his opponents and fired home.
Two minutes before the half, he scored off a corner kick when a bouncing ball evaded defenders and came to him at the far post, from where he calmly poked it in.
Many Ventforet Kofu fans made the trip to Thailand to cheer on the Yamanashi Prefecture-based team. | KYODO
“I wanted to show my quality, which is me scoring goals. I’m so glad I scored these two goals, but also that we qualified,” Utaka said on the field after the game, before he was interrupted by cheering Kofu fans who had traveled to Thailand for the match.
“You can hear the fans screaming about it. We are so appreciative. We appreciate every single one of them that made this trip. Every goal we scored, we went to them to show them our appreciation.”
Buriram reduced the deficit to a single goal early in the second half through Arthit Boodjinda and Goran Causic.
Arthit’s spectacular individual effort to take the ball the last third of the pitch and score made it 3-1 three minutes after the break, and Causic buried his penalty after a handball in the area by defender Shion Inoue.
In Ulsan, South Korea, J1’s Kawasaki Frontale, who had already qualified for the next round, drew 2-2 with Ulsan Hyundai FC, ending the J. League team’s perfect run during the group stage.
Source : The Japan Times