Ryogo Yamasaki grabbed a first-half hat-trick as Nagoya Grampus thrashed Ratchaburi FC 4-0 to close in on a last-16 berth from Group G in the Asian Champions League on Monday.
It was the third straight victory for the Japanese side after they notched up wins over Pohang Steelers and Johor Darul Ta’zim last week when the competition’s matches involving clubs in the continent’s eastern zone got under way at venues in Thailand and Uzbekistan.
Group stage matches in the western zone ended in April with five toppers and three best second-placed teams making the knockout phase of the expanded tournament.
With rain pouring down at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium on Monday, Thailand’s Ratchaburi, one of the several sides making their debut in the event this year, were clearly left wondering whether they are up to the task at this level after suffering their third consecutive defeat.
The Thais barely managed a clear chance at goal and fell behind in the 28th minute with the tall Yamasaki heading home off a perfect cross from fellow forward Mateus from the right.
Yamasaki added to the tally just three minutes later with another header, this time from an assist by Yutaka Yoshida from the left flank.
The 28-year-old grabbed his hat-trick with an easy finish in first-half stoppage time after Ratchaburi goalkeeper Kampol Pathomakkakul could only manage to parry the ball in his direction while attempting to stop a shot from Sho Inagaki.
Manabu Saito completed a miserable day for Ratchaburi with a neat finish in the 69th minute, taking advantage of a pass from Takuji Yonemoto.
Also in Group G, South Korea’s Pohang Steelers scored twice in each half as they eased past Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim 4-1 for their second win in three matches.
Johor took a surprise 17th minute lead through Argentinian Leandro Velazquez but that was their lone bright spot as the desperate Malaysians conceded three penalties later and lost the plot.
Boris Taschy, Kang Sang-woo and Lin Sang-hyub scored from the spot while Kwon Ki-pyo accounted for their only field goal.
In Group H, two-time former champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors wasted their early 2-0 advantage share points with Gamba Osaka.
Their 2-2 draw meant both sides are on four points from two matches with Gamba Osaka on top of the table on goal difference.
Jeonbuk drew first blood in the very second minute of play with German forward Stanislav Iljutcenko finding the target from an assist by Han Kyo-won.
Takahiro Kunimoto made it 2-0 in the 17th minute but Jeonbuk hit back with two goals inside five minutes by Brazilian Anderson Patric to force a draw at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent.
Patric first struck in the 27th minute by finishing off a pass from Hiroki Fujiharu and then completed his brace with a 31st minute goal on an assist by Shinya Yajima.
Also in Group H, Thai side Chiangrai United pipped Singapore’s Tampine Rovers with Siwakorn Tiatrakul netting the winner in the 87th minute in Tashkent.
It was the first win for Chiangrai who were beaten 2-1 by Jeonbuk Motors in their opening match last Friday while the Rovers suffered their second straight defeat.