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Kashima takes 1st leg over Hiroshima with Serginho’s goal at the Round of 16 - AFC Champions League 2019

19 June 2019

Kashima takes 1st leg over Hiroshima with Serginho’s goal at the Round of 16 - AFC Champions League 2019

On Tuesday 18 June, the first leg between Kashima Antlers and Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the AFC Champions League (ACL) 2019 round of 16 took place. The defending champions, Kashima, took the first leg at home with a 1-0 victory, thanks to their forward SERGINHO’s first half goal. The second leg will be played on Tuesday 25 June at Hiroshima.

After advancing to the round of 16 in three consecutive years, Kashima welcomed Hiroshima, who clinched their second knockout stage appearance in five years, to their home stadium in Ibaraki. The two sides have clashed many times in the domestic competitions, but this match represented their first head-to-head encounter at the ACL.

The match saw Kashima taking the initiative, as they applied aggressive pressure to force turnovers and created opportunities to threaten the Hiroshima goal. The home side’s aggressive approach led to the opening goal scored in the 24th minute. The goal came when Kashima’s DOI Shoma collected a loose ball near the halfway line and carried the ball up the field before delivering a cross towards the goal. With the cross taking a deflection off a Hiroshima defender, the ball made its way to the far side, allowing Serginho to strike a header that captured the net.

With momentum on their side, Kashima created numbers of chances following this goal, as Doi penetrated the penalty area with his dribbles, while NAGAKI Ryota combined with ENDO Yasushi to make attempts in the right flank.

In order to level the match, Hiroshima constructed their attacks around their ace, Douglas VIEIRA. The Brazilian attacker came close to scoring the equaliser in the 22nd minute, when he connected with a cross delivered by SASAKI Sho, but his attempt went just wide of the goal post.

The visiting side struggled to break through the block created by Kashima, as they lacked creativity in the final third to deliver the final pass. A couple attempts were made by Hiroshima, as WATARI Daiki struck a shot from the right side in the 34th minute, followed by an attempt made by Vieira in the 38th minute off a corner kick, but both shots failed to capture the target.

The second half continued to see the defending champions showing their dominance, as their midfielder MISAO Kento struck a shot from distance to begin the half, followed by another mid-range attempt made by Endo in the 61st minute, keeping the Hiroshima goalkeeper, NAKABAYASHI Hirotsugu, busy.

In efforts to equalise the match, Hiroshima brought in SHIBASAKI Kosei in the 65th minute, followed by PATRIC in the 74th minute, and HIGASHI Shunki in the 80th minute. Despite the team’s desperate moves to change the dynamics of the match, Hiroshima lacked the quality of their last passes and shots to threaten the Kashima goal. To make things worse, Hiroshima was forced to play with a man down after INAGAKI Sho was sent off in the 86th minute, with his second caution of the match. The home side maintained their lead for the remaining minutes to take the first leg with a 1-0 victory.

As a result, Kashima can now advance to the quarterfinals with a draw or better in the second leg. With away goals in consideration, Hiroshima needs a 2-0 shutout victory or better to advance, while a 2-1 victory at home will give Kashima the advantage in away goals, thus needing 3-1 or better to top Kashima in aggregate goals. In case of a 1-0 win by Hiroshima, the match will enter extra time, and penalty kicks will follow if the winner is undecided after the extra period.

On this day, a first leg fixture between two Chinese powerhouses also took place, where Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao won their home match 2-1 against Shandong Luneng Taishan. Elsewhere, Urawa Red Diamonds will host Ulsan Hyundai (Korea Republic) at home on Tuesday 19 June.

Coaches and Players' Comments

OIWA Go, Coach (Kashima Antlers)
With the first leg being played at our home, it was extremely important that we keep a clean sheet. I am very satisfied with this result, but technically, we have just finished the first half of a 180-minute match. Following our league match against Cerezo Osaka, we only had three days to prepare for this match, so I focused on selecting the players who are currently in good form. I will continue to select players based on their conditions for the next match. The first substitution was an unexpected move, but we did our best to give ourselves the best odds to win the match. Instead of going for the 1-0 win, we thought of going for more goals, but keeping the clean sheet was high up in our priority, so I had to utilise the substitutes wisely to balance out our needs. After taking the early lead, I think our players behaved defensively and kept in mind to play defence before turning to offence. We will analyse this match and make the necessary adjustments ahead of the second leg.

MF DOI Shoma (Kashima Antlers)
I am glad I was able to assist the goal. To be honest, we wanted to score more goals today. In our next match, I will try to score goals while making plays that can frustrate the opponents. We will forget about this 1-0 lead and enter our next away match as if it’s still 0-0.

FW SERGINHO (Kashima Antlers)
I saw Doi carrying the ball up the field, so I was anticipating for the cross. It helped that the ball took a deflection, because it allowed me to get to the ball quicker than the opponents. Winning the first leg gives us an advantage, but we haven’t achieved anything yet, so we must keep our cool and prepare for the next match. I am happy about my goal, but the team’s victory is much more important.

JOFUKU Hiroshi, Coach (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
The players gave their best efforts today. We managed to contain the opponent’s strong points and kept them from creating major opportunities, but Kashima capitalised on their one-chance. Following that goal, we struggled to find our rhythm of the match. Although we saw our side taking control of the ball possession in the second half, we failed to solve the opponent’s defence, and that is definitely an aspect we need to improve on. With the first leg being our away match, we desperately wanted to score a goal, but we also didn’t want to get countered and concede more goals, so I am glad that our players managed to keep their composure to limit the damage. We will now return to our home where we must find ways to score goals, so we will take back our homework and prepare ourselves ahead of the next match.

DF SASAKI Sho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
In the scene where we conceded the goal, it was a shot I had to block. However, nothing is determined yet and we still have plenty of chance to advance through. Ahead of the second leg, we will reset our minds, convert this disappointment to energy, and feed off of it to win our next match.

Tournament Dates:
Play-offs: Tue. 5 - Tue. 19 February 2019
Group Stage: Mon. 4 March - Wed. 22 May 2019
Round of 16: Tue. 18 June - Tue. 13 August 2019

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