Kashima Antlers warned job only half done in Asian Champions League final
J-League side are 2-0 up after first leg against Persepolis, but manager Go Oiwa believes hard work still ahead to clinch title and spot at Fifa Club World in the UAE
Kashima Antlers manager Go Oiwa has cautioned his side against complacency when they take on Persepolis in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final this weekend.
The Japanese club, seeking a first continental crown, triumphed 2-0 in the first leg at the Kashima Soccer Stadium on Saturday, with Brazilian duo Leo Silva and Serginho each scoring in the second half.
Kashima had looked off the pace in the opening 45 minutes in front of a capacity crowd and were fortunate to go into the break level. However, Oiwa’s half-time team talk had the desired effect, meaning Kashima head into next Saturday’s return encounter at Tehran’s intimidating Azadi Stadium in strong shape.
"I stressed to the players during the break that we had not played to our normal standard from the first blow of the whistle in the first half," Oiwa was quoted as saying on the official AFC website. "Persepolis were very positive and aggressive while we were slightly negative in our play.
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"We were too defensive in the first half and this allowed Persepolis to come at us. We changed that in the second half.”
Kashima are now well-placed to land a first continental title, and with it book a place in next month’s Fifa Club World Cup in the UAE. They have much to play for in the J-League, too, sitting fourth in the table with three matches remaining.
Kashima stand level on points with third-placed FC Tokyo, who currently hold the final qualification spot for the 2019 Champions League.
"This was just the first half and we need to focus on the second leg and our J League challenge as well,” Oiwa said. “It was good to have won, but we must concentrate on getting ready for the second leg."
Meanwhile, Persepolis manager Branko Ivankovic is convinced his team can rebound from Saturday’s defeat.
"Firstly, I would like to congratulate Kashima for their win, but we still have another match in Tehran next week and I am both hopeful and confident that we will bounce back," Ivankovic said.
"I agree that this is a good result for Kashima. A big result, in fact, but the final is not over and we will do our homework and come back stronger in the second leg."
Ivankovic will draw strength from the fact Persepolis, contesting the final for the first time, overturned first-leg deficits en route to the showpiece, when they came back against Abu Dhabi’s Al Jazira in the last 16 and Qatar’s Al Duhail in the quarter-finals to progress.
Home advantage, at the fervent Azadi Stadium, will be key too.
"Just as the Kashima fans did for them, I am expecting our fans to cheer my players on to victory,” the former Al Wahda manager said. “We can do it, especially with the backing of the thousands who will be in the stadium for the return leg."
Updated: November 4, 2018 10:35 AM