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Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Kennedy scores for Nagoya on ACL debut

By Liam FitzGibbon

A trademark header by Socceroos striker Josh Kennedy gave Nagoya Grampus a crucial away goal in their Asian Champions League quarter-final first leg loss to J-League rivals Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday.

The lanky striker gave Nagoya the lead in the 28th minute when he steered in a header at the far post from a Naoshi Nakamura cross.

Kawasaki hit back in the second half with Japan international Kengo Nakamura and Juninho scoring within four minutes of each other to win the match 2-1.

But Kennedy's goal on his ACL debut at least kept alive Nagoya's hopes of reaching the semi-finals, knowing a 1-0 victory will be enough to progress in the return leg at Nagoya next Wednesday.

Kennedy's goal continued his impressive form since joining the Japanese side following nine seasons in Germany, taking his tally to five goals in nine games.

Kawasaki equalised on the hour when Nakamura threaded a free kick through Nagoya's defensive wall.

Juninho then scored the winner with a right-foot shot from close range in the 63rd.

Kawasaki manager Takashi Sekizuka was pleased with his side's comeback but knew the job was far from done.

"Nagoya are a strong side and it was extremely difficult for us to win against them today but my players stayed focused and got the job done," Sekizuka said.

"But we are only at halftime in this tie. We must prepare well and hopefully we will be able to play our brand of soccer in the next game."

The winner of the tie will face either Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor or Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia over two semi-final legs next month.

Australian involvement in this year's ACL has already ended after Central Coast failed to reach the knockout stages and Newcastle Jets were thumped 6-0 by Korea's Pohang Steelers in the round of 16.

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