Kirins ‘underdogs’ for Kawasaki battle, says coach
SCG Muang Thong United coach Totchtawan Sripan has refused to set any lofty targets for his team’s AFC Champions League last-16 round clash with Kawasaki Frontale later this month, saying “we’re the underdogs.”
Muang Thong, who lost to J-League champions Kashima Antlers 2-1 in their last Group E match on Wednesday night, are the first Thai side ever to qualify for the knockout stage of the continent’s top club competition.
As a result of Wednesday night’s outcome, Antlers took the top spot in the group with the Kirins finishing second. The other two clubs in the group were Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea and Brisbane Roar of Australia, who both failed to qualify.
Muang Thong, who currently lead the Thai League 1 standings, next face Group G winners Kawasaki Frontale with the first leg taking place on May 23 in Bangkok and the return leg at Kawasaki on May 30.
“I am not expecting anything from the next match because we’re the underdogs,” commented Totchtawan, whose men suffered their first loss of the campaign on Wednesday night.
“In fact, we shouldn’t be even bothered about who we play in the next round because we can’t choose.
“We will just have to get our tactics and game plan right for the next match.”
Commenting on the match against Antlers, he added: “It was good that both teams had been assured of places in the last-16 stage because we were missing many key players due to suspensions.
“However, we succeeded in putting in an impressive performance and every player did well. We created several chances to tie the match. It was an exciting game.”
Kashima coach Ishii Masatada said: “In the first half, we went ahead but let Muang Thong level the score which forced us to change our tactics.
“We lost the first leg to Muang Thong because our players did not follow the game plan. It is good to have qualified for the last 16.”
Meanwhile, Muang Thong have confirmed that Chanathip Songkrasin will leave for an 18-month loan spell with J-League side Consodole Sapporo next month.
Rumours swirled that the Kirins may try to hold on to their star playmaker who has been a key component in the team’s excellent run on both domestic and Asian fronts.
However the club’s director Ronnarit Suewaja has shot down the rumours, insisting that Chanathip will leave for Japan next month after representing Thailand in a World Cup qualifier against the United Arab Emirates on June 13.
“I can confirm that Chanathip will join Consodole Sapporo for an 18-month loan spell,” said Ronnarit.
“Chanathip is expected to travel to Japan in mid-June. He will have around a month and a half to prepare for the second leg of the J-League which will begin at the end of July. However, he will play [for Muang Thong] in both legs of the last-16 round of the ACL.”
Earlier, striker Yuma Suzuki, who scored Antlers’ both goals against Muang Thong United and was declared man of the match on Wednesday night, praised Chanathip, saying: “He is a good player and also has good technique. I am confident he will be a success with Consadole Supporo in the J-League.”