Yamamoto: One goal can change everything
Tehran: Kashima Antlers defender Shuto Yamamoto has admitted that whichever team scores first in the AFC Champions League final could be the one that goes on to lift the trophy at the end of proceedings on Saturday.
Despite going into the second leg of the final against Persepolis two goals up, following a 2-0 win in Kashima last weekend, experienced full-back Yamamoto is well-aware that the tie is by no means over
With a potentially record-breaking crowd expected for an AFC Champions League finale, the first goal could be absolutely vital. Should the Japanese visitors score it, their hosts would effectively need to net four times to overcome the away goal advantage.
But if it were the Iranian side that draw first blood, the cauldron of noise at the intimidating Azadi Stadium could swell to a game-changing crescendo.
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"I believe it’s important we don’t concede the first goal, because if they score first they will build on that momentum. With that in mind I really want to focus at the beginning of the match," said the 33-year-old Yamamoto.
"Of course, we don’t want to concede and so having a strong defence and keeping an awareness of risk management is vital. But to win the game, one goal can change the situation entirely.
"Having a strong defence is a must, but when we have the opportunity to we will also look to score. This will be our style, I think."
There is no question that Kashima will not only have to overcome the 11 men of Persepolis on the field but "the 12th man" in the stands that comprises what could be well over double the 35,000 spectators who attended the first leg in Japan.
"I never experienced playing in front of that many spectators before, so I am feeling excited to have the opportunity to do so," added Yamamoto.
"It will be a rare experience, but at the same time we want to win this game so we will do our best as a team."
"We have won many titles except for the AFC Champions League, so personally I really want to win this.
"As a team, we have been saying from the beginning of this year that we must win the ACL title this season, so we want to win this competition whatever it takes."
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