‘What­ever it takes’ — Kashima vow to seal ti­tle in Tehran to­day

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Ja­pan’s Kashima Antlers pledged to keep their fo­cus and fin­ish off Perse­po­lis in the Asian Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal as they head to Tehran’s im­pos­ing Azadi Sta­dium with a 2-0 ad­van­tage from the first leg.

The eight-time Ja­panese cham­pi­ons go into the game with a handy cush­ion but they will face a test of nerve as well as skill at the 78,000-ca­pac­ity Azadi, ar­guably the re­gion’s most in­tim­i­dat­ing venue.

Sec­ond-half goals from Brazil­ian duo Leo Silva and Serginho, who scored his fifth in five Cham­pi­ons League ap­pear­ances, gave Kashima a con­vinc­ing win last week on home soil.

But de­fender Shuto Ya­mamoto said an open­ing goal from Perse­po­lis in Tehran would turn the tie up­side down as both teams bid to lift the tro­phy for the first time.

“I be­lieve it’s im­por­tant we don’t con­cede the first goal, be­cause if they score first they will build on that mo­men­tum. With that in mind I re­ally want to fo­cus at the be­gin­ning of the match,” Ya­mamoto said, ac­cord­ing to the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion web­site.

“Of course, we don’t want to con­cede and so hav­ing a strong de­fence and keep­ing an aware­ness of risk man­age­ment is vi­tal. But to win the game, one goal can change the sit­u­a­tion en­tirely.

“Hav­ing a strong de­fence is a must, but when we have the op­por­tu­nity to we will also look to score. This will be our style, I think.”

With tick­ets vir­tu­ally sold out, the game will set a new at­ten­dance record, eclips­ing the sec­ond leg of the 2014 fi­nal when 63,763 watched Al Hi­lal and West­ern Syd­ney Wan­der­ers at Riyadh’s King Fahd In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium.

A fer­vent home at­mos­phere will boost the chances of Branko Ivankovic’s team mount­ing an­other come­back, af­ter they erased a two-goal deficit against Qatar’s Al Duhail to reach the semi-fi­nals.

“I never ex­pe­ri­enced play­ing in front of that many spec­ta­tors be­fore, so I am feel­ing ex­cited to have the op­por­tu­nity to do so,” said Ya­mamoto.

“It will be a rare ex­pe­ri­ence, but at the same time we want to win this game so we will do our best as a team.”

Silva also said Kashima would have to be on their guard in Tehran, warn­ing that “noth­ing is fin­ished yet”.

“We all worked to­gether and did ev­ery­thing we needed to to­day, but now we have to make sure we keep our con­cen­tra­tion and make sure that in the end we take the ti­tle,” he said af­ter last week’s game.

Ja­panese Kashima Antlers’ head coach Go Oiwa poses with the tro­phy ahead of the sec­ond leg of the AFC Cham­pi­ons League against Iran’s Perse­po­lis at the Azadi Sta­dium in Tehran.

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