29.11.2023 15:20 h

Last-gasp Kante keeps holders Urawa alive in Asian Champions League

Japan's defending champions Urawa Red Diamonds stayed alive in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday after retiring striker Jose Kante scored a 90th-minute winner to sink China's Wuhan Three Towns.

Urawa were heading for a group-stage exit until Guinean Kante struck from the edge of the box to give them a 2-1 win in his last home game before hanging up his boots after next month's Club World Cup.

The result means Urawa can still reach the knock-out phase, but they will have to win their final group game and hope results elsewhere go their way.

Kante, who announced his intention to retire on Monday, said the goal was the way he "wanted to finish" his last game at Saitama Stadium.

"I'm very excited about the game and about the goal and the three points," said the 33-year-old.

"It was really important for us to win."

Urawa, who beat Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal to win their third Asian title in May, started the game knowing they could not catch South Korea's Pohang Steelers, who had already qualified as Group J winners.

Urawa's only route to the knock-out round was to finish as one of the three best runners-up from the East zone's five groups.

Danish defender Alexander Scholz gave them the lead with a 37th-minute penalty, but they lost two players to injury on the stroke of half-time.

Forward Toshiki Takahashi was stretchered off with a head injury, but he was conscious after being taken to hospital.

Brazilian Davidson scored a 68th-minute equaliser for Wuhan, who also needed to win to stay alive in the competition.

But Kante pounced on a loose ball and slammed it home for Urawa's late winner, giving the defending champions something to play for in their final game away to Vietnam's Hanoi FC on December 6.

"November has been a tough month for us," said Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, whose team had lost their last four games in all competitions.

"We haven't had the results we were looking for, but we were determined to win the last game here at home."

Pohang beat Hanoi 2-0 in the group's other game. Wuhan and Hanoi were both eliminated.

South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors moved a step closer to the knock-out round with a 2-1 win over Hong Kong's Kitchee.

The result keeps Jeonbuk in second place in Group F, behind Thailand's Bangkok United.

Japan's Ventforet Kofu and Australia's Melbourne City shared a six-goal thriller in a 3-3 draw that puts both teams on eight points.

Also in Group H, China's Zhejiang moved to six points after a 3-2 win over Thailand's Buriram United, who are also on six points.