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Thursday, May 3, 2012

FC Tokyo beat Brisbane to reach round of 16 in ACL


FC Tokyo became the first Japanese team to secure their passage into the round of 16 in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night with an entertaining 4-2 win over Brisbane Roar at a rain-swept National Stadium.

The Emperor's Cup holders only needed a draw to advance from Group F with a game to spare, but they fell behind with less than four minutes gone as Besart Berisha fired the Australians in front in atrocious conditions in the nation's capital.

Tokyo hit straight back through Hideto Takahashi, though, and Kenta Mukuhara added the second midway through the first period before a Kazuma Watanabe double made the points safe.

Tokyo have 11 points from five games, three clear of South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai, who were away to Beijing Guoan in a later match.

Brisbane, who have won the A-League and seen Rado Vidosi replace head coach Ange Postecoglou since being beaten 2-0 at home by Tokyo back in March, came into the match with slim hopes of advancing having taken just two points from four games.

But the visitors gave their small band of drenched fans behind the goal some early cheer when Berisha stabbed home after a free header had come back off the post.

Brisbane's joy proved short lived though. Within seconds of the restart, Takahashi lashed the equalizer in off the post from just outside the box, and the Gasmen went in front with a well-worked goal on 20 minutes.

Ariajasuru Hasegawa released Naotake Hanyu on the right flank and the former Japan midfielder sent a low hard ball into the box which Mukuhara buried at the far post.

With the game swinging from end to end, Thomas Broich's deflected effort restored parity, only for Tokyo to take the lead for the second time on the stroke of halftime, Watanabe sending Michael Theoklitos the wrong way from the spot after he had been upended in the area.

Watanabe collected a pass from Tatsuya Yazawa and kept his head to complete the scoring on the hour.

Tokyo travel to South Korea to play Ulsan in their final group game on May 16.

The top two teams from each group advance to play a one-off match in the round of 16. The winners of Group F face the second-placed team in Group H that features J. League champions Kashiwa Reysol on May 30.

In Group E, Gamba Osaka became the first Japanese club to be eliminated after going down 2-0 away to Pohang Steelers, their fourth defeat in five games.

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