Muangthong United have finished 2nd in Group-E after a 2-1 loss at Kashima Antlers, at the Kashima Soccer Stadium in Japan.
Muangthong went into the match needing a win or a draw to hold onto top position, while Kashima knew that a only victory would allow them to finish top of the table. The Kirin were playing without several key players due to injuries or suspensions. With the result, Muangthong United will face Kawasaki Frontale in the Round of 16, while Kashima Antlers will face Chinese Super League powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande.
Kashima were the better team over the first half, with 7 strikes at target as compared to 3 from the Kirin. It was Kashima onto the scoreboard first with a soft goal when Suzuki Yuma tucked the ball under Kawin who had come to the edge of the box to try to shut down the run on goal.
Yet Muangthong United bounced back and picked up the pace, forcing turn overs in the midfield. At the 45th minute Theerathon slid a pass to Teerasil, who then deftly fed the ball between the defenders legs and hammered in a beauty of shot from well outside the box.
Kashima's control of the game continued into the second half, and by the 59th minute they had the go-ahead goal, with a cross and a free header. It was goal that caught the Kirin back line flat footed. Muangthong United almost equalized the very next minute when Theerathon's shot hit the post, crossed along the goal line to hit the other post, came off a defender, and then hit the post again!
After the sudden rally by the Kirin, however, Kashima regained control. They were clearly the team dominating the arial game, and Yuma's header at the 65th minute was only just over the bar.
Moments later Coach Totchtawan looked to bring some more attach into the midfield, and Sanukran was subbed in for Ratchapol. Sanukran signed with the Kirin back in 2014, and had been loaned out to various clubs until this season. Like Chanathip, his small size and quickness are difficult to handle.
Sanukran has represented Thailand on the U23 national team.
A good opportunity presented itself for the Kirin near the 80th minute when Teerasil was dragged to the turf by the Kashima Antler keeper, just outside the box. The keeper was handed the yellow card.
Theerathon stepped forward to take the free kick, and unlike his effort from the home fixture with Kashima, this attempt was well over the crossbar.
Coach Totchtawan used his second sub bringing in Pitakpong for Adisorn. A few moments Wongsakorn came in for Mongkol, another young midfielder who loves to chase the ball and force turnovers. The changes were not enough, however and the two goals from Suzuki Yuma were enough for Kashima to take top spot in the group.
The Kirin's next AFC Champions League match will be May 23rd, when they will host Kawasaki Frontale in the first game of the elimination round.