- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

SYDNEY (AP) - Defending champion Western Sydney is on the brink of Asian Champions League elimination after conceding two second-half goals Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to Kashima Antlers, including Mu Kanazaki’s stoppage-time winner.

The Wanderers, in last place in Group H, must beat former champion Guangzhou Evergrande on May 5 to have any chance of joining the Chinese club in the knockout stages.

Guangzhou secured top spot in the group with a 0-0 draw against FC Seoul, the team it beat in the 2013 final. Guangzhou has 10 points and is four clear of Seoul and Kashima, which meet in the last round of the group stage, and five clear of the Wanderers.

At a rain-soaked Parramatta Stadium, Nikita Rukavytsya gave the Wanderers the lead in the 24th minute when he capitalized on a defensive mistake and slotted home from close range.

Shuto Yamamoto missed a chance to equalize soon after, his weak header easily punched away by goalkeeper Ante Covic, and the Wanderers held onto a 1-0 lead at the break after missing two further chances to extend the lead. But Kashima dominated the second half with Shoma Doi equalizing with a composed strike in the 66th and Kanazaki sealing the victory.

To progress, the Wanderers need to win at Guangzhou and hope for a draw between Seoul and Kashima.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic was confident his struggling squad could advance.

“If we doubted ourselves, we wouldn’t have won the Champions League last year,” he said. “A difficult task? Yes, of course.

“We picked up three suspensions (tonight) as well, which doesn’t help when you’ve got a small squad, but we’ll just try and get a few bodies back and make sure that we give ourselves a chance over there.”

In Group G, Suwon scored twice in the last 15 minutes in a 2-1 comeback win over Urawa to take a share of top spot with Beijing Guoan, which lost 1-0 at home to Brisbane Roar. Suwon and Beijing each have 10 points and will meet in the last group game. Brisbane, on seven points, hosts Urawa on the same night.

In the Western Conference, 2014 runner-up Al Hilal sealed a place in the knockout stage for the seventh consecutive tournament with a 2-1 win over Uzbek club Lokomotiv Tashkent in Group C, and Al Sadd also advanced with a 1-0 victory over winless Foolad.

Saudi club Al-Ahli ensured it would advance in Group D with a 3-3 draw against Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates, and Nasaf Qarshi stayed on course with a 2-1 win at Tractor Sazi.

ACL action continues Wednesday with matches in Groups A, B, E and F.

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