Serginho cannot wait for ACL climax
Kashima: Serginho has admitted that it will be an “absolute delight” to play in front of a packed Azadi Stadium on Saturday as Kashima Antlers prepare to take on Persepolis in the second leg of the 2018 AFC Champions League final.
The Japanese side travel to the Islamic Republic of Iran with a two-goal lead after Serginho added to fellow Brazilian Leo Silva’s opener in the first leg at Kashima Soccer Stadium to secure a 2-0 win for the J.League club.
More than 35,000 spectators roared Kashima to victory on home soil, but that number is likely to be at least doubled in Tehran, where Persepolis’ die-hard fans regularly fill the venue to capacity and generate one of the most vibrant atmospheres in Asia.
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“Being able to play in that kind of environment makes me very happy and as a player it’s an absolute delight to have the opportunity to be able to play in front of so many people,” said Serginho.
“We have a good advantage and it’s wonderful that we were able to win at home. I felt that they were strong and that there was more contact and it was quite a physical game, which maybe took us a little while to get used to.
“However, we still managed to play calmly and move the ball around on the floor to make chances in the way we like to play football, and now we know that we can expect a similarly physical game over there.”
Serginho has been a revelation since joining Kashima in the summer months ahead of the quarter-finals, with the forward scoring in all five of the AFC Champions League games he has appeared in.
The 23-year-old opened his account in the 2-0 home win over China PR’s Tianjin Quanjian before adding another in the return meeting as Kashima cruised into the last eight.
His contribution was even more important in against Korea Republic’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the semi-finals, as he again scored in both legs before Kashima edged through 6-5 on aggregate.
After Kashima had struggled to impose themselves in the first half of last Saturday's first leg, meanwhile, Serginho’s goal with 20 minutes to play – 12 minutes after Leo Silva had broken the deadlock – means that Persepolis have been handed an uphill task to claw their way back into the final.
“Of course I’m delighted to have scored the five goals but the tie isn’t finished yet, so in the next game if that kind of chance comes my way I’d like to think I’ll be able to take it,” admitted Serginho.
“More importantly than that, I want to make sure I get my hands on the trophy with the team, and if I get the chance during the game to also score a goal that would be great.
“Now we want to go there, play our football, and put on a good game. Our target is to win the title and now we just want to focus on that."
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