Newcastle Jets have missed a spot in the group stage of this year’s AFC Champions League after a 4-1 defeat to Kashima Antlers in Tuesday night’s qualifier.
Up against the defending ACL champions, the Jets stayed in the contest for just over an hour but were eventually outclassed by the J-League club at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
Jets playmaker Ronny Vargas scored in between goals from Sho Ito and Shuto Yamamoto as Kashima took a 2-1 lead to the break.
There were chances at both ends in the second half but it was the home side who added to their tally with a brace to Brazilian playmaker Serginho.
While the Jets gave a good account of themselves for long periods, they have keeper Glen Moss to thank for keeping them in the match with the Kiwi veteran making a string of fine saves.
The result means Kashima will begin their ACL title defence in Group E alongside Gyeongnam FC of South Korea, Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim and Shandong Luneng of China, who beat Vietnamese outfit Hanoi 4-1 earlier on Tuesday night.
Japan-based former Jets striker Andrew Nabbout was in the crowd and the Caltex Socceroos star saw his former club make a bright start.
Only a full-stretch fingertip save from keeper Kwoun Sun-Tae denied Roy O’Donovan’s thunderous strike from distance finding the top corner.
But just a few minutes later the home side took the lead through Ito.
Brazilian dup Leo Silva and Serginho were heavily involved, with the latter’s clever flick tipped onto the post by Moss, but the ball trickled across the goal line before Ito slid in to poke it home.
The Jets were far from deterred by that though and were level just six minutes later as some crisp passing around the Kashima box ended with Vargas’ deflected strike wrong-footing the keeper and going in.
Moss pulled off two incredible saves from Ito in the space of a minute to keep the scores level but there was nothing the Jets gloveman could do to deny Kashima regaining the lead on 32 minutes.
There was miscommunication at the back as a couple of Jets defenders stood and watched a floated cross to the far post where Yamamoto arrived to head past Moss.
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Ernie Merrick brought on youngster Joey Champness early in the second half to try and add some energy to Newcastle’s play but Kashima gave themselves breathing space on 67 minutes.
A clumsy challenge by Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard on Silva saw the hosts awarded a penalty which Serginho easily tucked past Moss before the Brazilian scored again in stoppage time.
It's a disappointing end for the Jets who fall one game shot of featuring in this year’s competition.
They’ll now turn the focus on trying to qualify for the Hyundai A-League Finals Series, starting with Sunday’s home clash against Adelaide United.