REUTERS: Eight-time Japanese champions Kashima Antlers have fired head coach Antonio Carlos Zago, the club said on Wednesday.
The Brazilian has been replaced by former Kashima full back Naoki Soma, after a disappointing start to the season in which Antlers won just twice in their first eight games.
Kashima, who won the Asian Champions League in 2019 under previous coach Go Oiwa, struggled for much of the Brazilian's tenure.
In his first game in charge, Zago oversaw a 1-0 loss in the playoff rounds of last year's Asian Champions League to Melbourne Victory before leading the team to a fifth place finish in the J-League.
Former Japan and Kashima full back Soma replaces Zago after working as an assistant to the 51-year-old last year. The 49-year-old was previously head coach at Kawasaki Frontale and Machida Zelvia.
Kashima are currently 15th in Japan's 20-team first division and face Vegalta Sendai on Sunday.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Hugh Lawson)