Analysis: Kashima impress to maiden last four
Macau: Kashima Antlers booked their place in the semi-finals of the 2018 AFC Champions League in style on Tuesday, cruising to a 3-0 win away against Tianjin Quanjian of China.
That wrapped up a 5-0 aggregate scoreline for the Japanese side, who ensured their smooth progression with an efficient display all over the pitch.
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Less is more in battle of Brazilians
Things could have gone very differently here if Alexandre Pato had scored with a glorious chance that fell his way in the third minute, but he struck straight at Kashima goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae.
The Brazilian went on to have seven attempts on goal but only managed to land two of them on target, also seeing a later effort cleared off the line by Atsuto Uchida.
For compatriot Serginho less was more though, with the 23-year-old having just one effort on goal all game, when he scored Kashima’s opener with a 13th-minute header, and creating two chances, one of which was converted by Shoma Doi to wrap up the win.
Tianjin tied up
Tianjin made a lot more passes than Kashima (500 to 315), but the areas in which they were made tell the story of the game.
Tianjin’s most oft-repeated passing combinations were from Kwon Kyung-won at the heart of the defence to fellow centre-backs Wang Jie (16) and Liu Yiming (15), and the hosts managed just two successful passes into the Kashima penalty area all night.
Kashima worked their way into Tianjin’s box eight times though, and the players receiving the ball most often were forwards Yasushi Endo (from Atsuto Uchida) and Yuma Suzuki (from goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae), who each accepted seven passes.
Uchida adds oomph
Kashima right-back Atsuto Uchida was a standout performer in this contest, making key contributions at both ends of the pitch.
The 30-year-old made a vital block on the line after 24 minutes to prevent Pato from equalising, and then three minutes later was down the other end to set up Hiroki Abe for Kashima’s second goal.
His positive approach was epitomised by the fact he spent almost as long in and around the opponent’s penalty area as he did his own, and of his 19 passes only four were to fellow defenders – one of which was a raking cross-field ball to set left-back Shuto Yamamoto into space deep in the Tianjin half.
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