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Ito: The real battle is yet to come


Thursday, August 29, 2019
Sho Ito (2)

Guangzhou: Kashima Antlers striker Sho Ito believes the hard work is still to come after defending champions Kashima Antlers secured a 0-0 draw against Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-finals at the Tianhe Stadium on Wednesday. 


The game marked a rematch of the 2017 Round of 16 which Guangzhou won on away goals, and while both teams had their chances on Wednesday, the closest anyone came to breaking the deadlock was when Kashima’s Ryohei Shirasaki’s long-range effort struck the woodwork in the dying moments.

But it was two-time champions Guangzhou who had more of the play, with Brazilian Talisca forcing goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae into action on a couple of occasions in a match that was played out in humid conditions in Guangdong.

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“I was surprised by how hot it was. Of course it was also hot for the opponents, and at the end the game became very open and there were chances at both ends,” said Ito.

“But, all in all, I don’t think this is a bad result. If I’m being greedy I would have liked an away goal. However, it was difficult for everyone to play at full speed today.

“The defence and goalkeeper worked really hard to ensure we kept a clean sheet. In the second leg, us forwards want to play our role."

Quarter-final - 1st Leg: Guangzhou Evergrande vs Kashima Antlers

Five points clear at the top of the Chinese Super League, Guangzhou were further boosted by a pair of returnees: Elkeson from Shanghai SIPG and Talisca from injury. 

With the additional threat of Paulinho from midfield and Wei Shihao in advanced positions – coupled with a full and rapturous Tianhe Stadium – the holders were faced with a formidable quarter-final opponent, but dealt admirably with everything thrown at them.

FULL-TIME | Guangzhou Evergrande 🇨🇳 0-0 @atlrs_official 🇯🇵

🚫 It ends in a stalemate as neither side can be separated at Tianhe. Intriguing return meeting in Kashima to come.#GUAvKAS #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/jzmVXAm00a

— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) August 28, 2019

“When winning the ball deep, we struggled to build into high positions. Inevitably, after losing possession we aimed to pack bodies behind the ball,” explained Ito. 

“We managed to create several chances in the second half and it would have been great to have made one of them count, but that is not so easy. The real battle will come in the second leg.”

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次もともに戦おう。 #鹿島アントラーズ #kashimaantlers #acl2019 #広州恒大 #三竿健斗 #キャプテン

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When the sides met in the last 16 two years ago, Paulinho had proved the difference, pouncing on loose balls to score in both legs as Guangzhou advanced on away goals. 

Although Paulinho did have an early sight of goal, his run was well tracked and he fired over under pressure, while he was just inches away from connecting with a late cross into the box.

12' CHANCE!

Liyu puts in a low cross and Paulinho almost puts it away at the near post. Decent start from both sides so far.#GUAvKAS #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/VzcTah8KV3

— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) August 28, 2019

“We knew we couldn’t leave Paulinho free, and from our analysis we knew that the most danger would come when they built up from wide,” added Kento Misao. 

“It’s good that everyone paid attention to this aspect right to the very end. We also made sure not to leave open spaces in the middle.

“In the end nobody lost their individual battles. You can have tactics but they become meaningless if you come undone because of an individual mistake, and in that regard today I think [left-sided defenders] Kei Koizumi and Jung Seung-hyun fought really well at the back.”

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