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Analysis: Ambitious Kashima overwhelm Persepolis

Sunday, November 4, 2018
Persepolis Kashima

Kashima: Kashima Antlers take a 2-0 lead into the second leg of the 2018 AFC Champions League final after beating Persepolis in Saturday’s first leg in Japan.

Two second-half strikes have put the J.League side in the driving seat and Persepolis are up against it as they try to overhaul their opponents in the second leg on November 10.

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Kashima go wide

Kashima certainly stretched their opponents, with much of their attacking play coming down the wings. 

Daigo Nishi was very busy up and down the right flank and the graphic below shows that almost half of Kashima’s attacking forays came down the right-hand side of the pitch.

Light blue – Kashima Antlers; Dark blue – Persepolis

The opening goal originated from an attack on the right as Leo Silva cut inside before playing a one-two and firing home from 18 yards.

Shuto Yamamoto wasn’t quite as influential as Nishi but he still saw plenty of the ball on the left as the home side worked the tiring Iranians.

Kashima clearly finished the stronger side and making use of the flanks certainly helped them pile the pressure on Persepolis in the second half in particular.

Kashima rewarded for attacking ambition

The away side came with a clear plan to contain the hosts and try to hit on the counter attack. Their defence largely stuck to their starting positions throughout the game, in contrast to the hosts as the graphic below demonstrates.

Light blue – Kashima Antlers; Dark blue – Persepolis

After a shaky start, Kashima showed much more attacking ambition and this is best demonstrated by the average position of full-back Nishi (No. 22), who spent more time in the opposition half than in his own.

Just three of Kashima’s outfield players spent the majority of the game in their own half, compared to six for Persepolis.

The Iranian champions’ focus on defensive shape did limit Kashima to few chances in the first half. However, they were eventually undone by Leo Silva’s solo effort and an excellent piece of vision from Kento Misao, whose deft pass found Serginho, with the Brazilian adding a second.

Resan’s influence fades

Persepolis midfielder Bashar Resan was arguably the best player on the pitch in the first half on Saturday.

He was all over the park, making telling contributions both in attack and defence. But Resan fell out of the game in the second 45 minutes as Kashima gained the upper hand and netted twice.

Resan’s first-half touch map (below) highlights just how wide his impact was.

However, a comparison with his second-half contribution provides a clear demonstration of the difference, with significantly fewer touches and less overall movement.

Resan’s drop-off in performance in the second half was representative of Persepolis as a whole as, after a solid first half, they lost their way somewhat and Kashima took full advantage.

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