Kashima aim­ing to add ACL ti­tle to list of cham­pi­onships

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Sport -

JA­PAN’S most suc­cess­ful club team will be aim­ing to add a con­ti­nen­tal ti­tle to its list of ac­com­plish­ments in the Asian Cham­pi­ons League fi­nals.

Since the J-league’s in­au­gu­ral sea­son in 1993, Kashima Antlers have been by far Ja­pan’s most suc­cess­ful club team, win­ning the ti­tle a record eight do­mes­tic ti­tles.

Kashima will get a shot be­ing Asian cham­pion when it faces Iran’s Perse­po­lis in the home-an­d­away fi­nals for­mat that kicks off Satur­day at Kashima Sta­dium. A tough path to the fi­nal has only height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions.

Two J-league teams, Urawa Reds (2017, 2007) and Gamba Osaka (2008), have won the con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­onship in its cur­rent for­mat.

Kashima’s best re­sult so far was a trip to the quar­ter­fi­nals in 2008, when it lost 2-1 on ag­gre­gate against Aus­tralia’s Ade­laide United.

Kashima has shown re­silience in ad­vanc­ing to the fi­nals this time, ral­ly­ing from two goals down in both legs of the semi­fi­nals against South Korea’s Su­won Bluew­ings.

“Not just in the semi­fi­nals, but through­out the past year we’ve had many tough matches,” said Kashima mid­fielder Shoma Doi, who was part of the lineup that came back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits in the games against Su­won.

Brazil­ian mid­fielder Serginho struck a late equal­izer to give Kashima a 3-3 draw in the Oc­to­ber 24 sec­ond leg, giv­ing the Ja­panese club a 6-5 win on ag­gre­gate.

“No mat­ter the sit­u­a­tion, we have great be­lief in what we’ve been able to do,” Doi said.

Perse­po­lis, mean­while, will be aim­ing to be­come the first Ira­nian team to win the ti­tle and will rely heav­ily on cap­tain Jalal Hos­seini, who has rep­re­sented four dif­fer­ent clubs in the con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tion.

Perse­po­lis beat Qatar’s Al Sadd 2-1 on ag­gre­gate in the semi­fi­nals.

Hos­seini’s late strike in the sec­ond leg of the Round of 16 clash against Al Jazira earned Perse­po­lis an away-goals tri­umph, be­fore the 36-year-old de­fender added an­other cru­cial goal in the quar­ter­fi­nals against Al Duhail to start a stun­ning come­back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

The sec­ond leg of the fi­nal is Nov. 10 at Azadi Sta­dium in Tehran.

Sev­eral hun­dred in­ter­na­tional del­e­gates and guests are ex­pected to at­tend, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of cul­tural ten­sions.

Women have been mainly pro­hib­ited from at­tend­ing men’s games and other sports events in Iran since the 1979 Is­lamic rev­o­lu­tion. – AP

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