Hiroshima: Kashima Antlers coach Go Oiwa was a relieved man after seeing his defending champions sneak into the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League despite their 3-2 second leg loss at the hands of fellow J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Last year’s winners had a pair of goals from Shoma Doi to thank for their win on the away goals rule that ensured the game ended in a 3-3 draw at the end of the two legs, and Oiwa was happy Kashima will be in the draw for the last eight in Kuala Lumpur on July 2.
“The most important point about today’s game is that we are now through to the next round,” he said.
“I know everyone will have different views about all that transpired during the match, but I hope we can build on this and regroup for our next J.League game against Hiroshima, then the quarter-finals.”
Oiwa and his team endured a torrid final 45 minutes after Doi had given his side the lead on the night and extended their overall advantage.
However, the introduction of Brazilian striker Patric at half-time boosted Hiroshima’s hopes and an own goal from Tomoya Inukai and a second strike from Sho Sasaki gave Hiroshi Jofuku’s side belief they could turn the tie around.
But a red card for goalkeeper Hirotsugu Nakabayashi for bringing down Doi swung the fixture back in Kashima’s favour and a goal from the 27-year-old late in the game meant Patric’s injury time penalty was too little too late for Hiroshima.
“When we were down 2-1 I told the team to settle down and read how our opponents were setting up, but we didn’t react the way we should have,” said Oiwa.
“I didn’t sense much of a difference in Hiroshima from the first game to the second. They changed their formation a bit during the game, but they pretty much played the way we expected them to play.
“They made some changes to the team but the issues we had probably affected us more. We should have taken the game to them, not the other way around.”
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Oiwa had special praise for Doi, whose performance was key to Kashima remaining alive in the 2019 edition of the AFC Champions League.“Not just the goals but his defending from the front and positioning counted for a lot,” he said.
“He makes the game easier for his teammates, and I think he showed everything he had in his arsenal.”