Teerasil’s Sanfrecce pips Chanathip and Consadole to ACL spot

Highlights – Al Hilal vs Urawa Red Diamonds

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Teerasil Dangda and Sanfrecce Hiroshima have secured an AFC Champions League qualifying playoff berth at the expense of Chanathip Songkrasin’s Consadole Sapporo following a 2-2 draw between the two sides.

It was Sanfrecce who entered Saturday’s clash in pole position in second spot on the J1 League table, two points ahead of fourth-place Consadole with the second and third-ranked teams earning a spot in the ACL playoffs.

However, with Sanfrecce having lost eight of their nine matches and – in the process – surrendering the title to Kawasaki Frontale, Consadole would have been confident of their prospects of winning at the Sapporo Dome.

And the hosts got off to a dream start in the third minute after some neat build-up involving a couple of first-time flicks saw Jay Bothroyd eventually lay the ball off to Chanathip, who drilled home a right-footed effort to open the scoring.

Chanathip was then involved once more as Consadole doubled their lead in the 21st minute as he got in behind the opposition defence and forced Sanfrecce goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi to race out of his box and make a hurried clearance.

The ball fell kindly into the path of Bothroyd, who steadied himself before sending a sublime lob into the top corner.

But, six minutes before halftime, Kazuaki Matawari pulled one back for the visitors and, in the 51st minute, Kosei Shibasaki found the back of the net to level the scores.

Teerasil, who had started the game, was then brought off with 11 minutes remaining but Sanfrecce we able to play out the remainder of the contest to earn the point they needed to seal an ACL playoff berth.

Although Consadole will ultimately be disappointed at failing in their quest to qualify for Asia’s premier club competition, they can still look back at the campaign proud of their fourth-place finish having only returned to the top flight last season, where they finished 11th out of 18 teams.

There is still a chance that Consadole could earn a playoff berth should third-place Kashima Antlers go on to win the Emperor’s Cup, which would then see them qualify automatically for the group stage and free up a spot for the Sapporo-based outfit.