It was one of Newcastle’s biggest matches in their near-20 year existence, facing off against the reigning Asian club champions for a spot in the Group Stage of the 2019 AFC Champions League.
Playing their third game in seven days, with some clocking 300 minutes in that time by full-time on Tuesday night, it was always going to be a tall ask.
Despite a goal early in the first-half to give the travelling Jets a hope at pulling off what would have been a stunning upset victory, the quality of Kashima shone out in the end.
After a cagey start to proceedings from the visitors, Newcastle began to edge their way into proceedings, with a series of early set pieces helping settle the Jets settle in front of a raucous home crowd.
Roy O’Donovan had Newcastle’s first shot on target from outside the area with almost a quarter of an hour played, which had Kashima ‘keeper Sun-Tae Kwon scrambling to knock it over the bar.
There was a crucial interception minutes later at the other end as Nikolai Topor-Stanley got a leg in to prevent Abe getting on goal. Shortly after, Glen Moss made a scrambling save to prevent the home side an opening goal.
Kashima would strike shortly after however, after a breakdown from a set piece allowed Sho Ito to tap home and give the Antlers a 1-0 lead.
The reigning Asian champions didn’t hold that lead for long, with the visiting Jets keen to get back on level terms. A swift move forward, a fortunate deflection, and Ronny Vargas had opened the scoring for Newcastle in Japan.
After a fantastic ball into the mixer from the right-hand side for Kashima, Sho Ito nearly had a brace but some sharp reflexes from Moss once again kept Newcastle level.
Despite some good play and desperate defending, it was a free header at the back post which allowed Kashima to regain the lead just past the half-hour mark.
Shuto Yamamoto was the man who fired home, finishing off a ball into the area which wasn’t dealt with by the Jets defence to make the score 2-1.
The visitors had one of their best chances in the opening minutes of the second half after a wicked ball across the face found Yamamoto, but Glen Moss was on hand at close-quarters to deny the Kashima man a second.
With close to an hour gone, the Jets had an opportunity to level the scores once again when Nikolai Topor-Stanley whipped a ball in following the afters of a corner, but Roy O’Donovan couldn’t get enough height on his leap to make solid connection.
The Antlers were almost out of sight just after the substitution of Joey Champness onto the park on the hour mark as Serginho found space and got a shot off at the top of the area, but a diving Glen Moss once again kept Newcastle in it.
Kashima had the chance from the penalty spot to go ahead in the 68th minute after Nigel Boogaard was adjudged to have fouled Leo Silva inside the box. Serginho stepped u and finished to give the home side a two-goal buffer.
Chances were few and far in between as the game wound down. A high press from Kashima continued to compress and constrict the space which Newcastle looked to play into.
Roy O’Donovan had the best of them for the travelling side, but snatched at his chance just prior to the 90-minute mark.
Just after the clock had ticked over into injury time, Serginho popped up to score his second of the evening – securing passage for Kashima Antlers and leaving the Jets to rue what could have been.