Analysis: Slick Serginho steers Antlers into final
Suwon: Kashima Antlers progressed to their first ever AFC Champions League final in sensational style on Wednesday, drawing an incredible semi-final second leg against Korea Republic’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-3 to go through 6-5 on aggregate.
The match swung one way then the other and then back again, before Serginho struck late on to send the Japanese side into their maiden continental showpiece.
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Suwon siege sparks goal rush
Suwon started this game a little shakily, and although they had plenty of possession in the first half – 65.1 percent to 34.9 percent – they struggled to fashion many clear chances with it.
They tore out of the traps after the break, however, pinning Kashima back and peppering shots on goal as 31.8 percent of the game was contested in Kashima's defensive third in the 15 minutes after half time
Nine of Suwon’s 19 shots came in that spell, including all three of their goals from Im Sang-Hyeob, Jo Sung-Jin, and Dejan Damjanovic, but the siege was ultimately not enough to see them over the line.
Kwoun keeps composure
Despite conceding three times in this game, Kwoun Sun-Tae played a vital role in helping Kashima into their maiden AFC Champions League final.
Over the 90 minutes Suwon had 19 shots to Kashima’s eight, but Kwoun was equal to the bulk of those on target, saving four of the seven he stood a chance with.
The custodian was incredibly unfortunate that two of his sensational stops led to goals anyway - Lim Sang-Hyub’s on a rebound and Jo Sung-Jin’s from a corner after a fine save – but he continued to stand tall as his defence was breached time and again to deliver Kashima to the brink of continental glory.
Serginho slick as Suzuki adds steel
Serginho’s lashed finish to make it 3-3 ultimately booked Kashima’s place in the final, and means the Brazilian has now played four games in the 2018 AFC Champions League and found the net in all of them.
The 23-year-old is dovetailing increasingly well with strike partner Yuma Suzuki, with the latter providing the muscle and the former adding the finesse to Antlers frontline.
As Suzuki kept the Suwon defence busy – contesting 36 duels on the deck and in the air – Serginho picked the holes, setting up Kashima’s first two goals and then snatching the third for himself.
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