Kashima Antlers to build on experience, says Oiwa
Ibaraki: Kashima Antlers head coach Go Oiwa expects his team to learn the lessons of a challenging group phase in the 2019 AFC Champions League after the defending champions squeezed into the last 16 on Wednesday.
Substitute Sho Ito scored twice to earn Kashima a 2-1 win over Shandong Luneng and a place in the next round, when they will play fellow J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima over two legs in June.
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“We had a very difficult time in the group stage with injuries but, more than that, we needed to play better away from home based on the lessons we learned from last season,” said Oiwa.
“We should have known how tough, how severe it is to play away from home in the AFC Champions League. And it will continue to be challenging from hereon so I certainly hope we can build on our experiences not just from last season, but this group stage.”
The win was Kashima’s first in the competition since a Matchday Three victory over Gyeongnam FC and came after Marouane Fellaini had given the Chinese Super League side the lead with just 11 minutes on the clock.
Kashima needed at least a draw to join Shandong in the next round, but that place looked to be slipping away from them until Ito’s introduction from the bench turned the game in Kashima’s favour and his goals in the 68th and 70th minutes ensured the champions advance.
“We lost our shape and our combinations after we conceded, so that is something we need to go over,” said Oiwa.
“What matters is that we advanced to the next round. I'm proud of us for coming from behind to win. But we do have a lot to work on for the next round.”
The next phase of the competition will see Kashima face off against Hiroshima, with Antlers hosting the first leg on June 18 before the return is played in Hiroshima one week later.
“Our next game against Hiroshima will certainly be difficult for a number of reasons, but it goes both ways,” said Oiwa. “We respect Hiroshima and we will be ready for them. That's what it comes down to. Home or away, we will have to keep our focus and play well.”
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