Kawasaki: Coach Tony Popovic was bitterly disappointed in seeing his Western Sydney Wanderers side let slip a first half lead and succumb to a 2-1 defeat against Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale in their AFC Champions League Group H clash on Tuesday.
The A-League side took the lead against the run of play through Labinot Haliti on 24 minutes as the forward opened the scoring as he had done against the same opponents in Australia last month.
But after continued pressure in the second half, Kawasaki finally scored the equaliser through captain Kengo Nakamura on 75 minutes before Ryota Oshima netted the winner two minutes from time to give Kawasaki the win and put them level on points with Western Sydney, with the two sides now sharing second place in Group H.
“There’s a feeling of great disappointment in the dressing room at the moment. We conceded the late goal from distance, which is disappointing as we defended for such a long period, so it’s a hard one to take. We competed so well, we hit the lead and we couldn’t get the result, which could have put us in the next position in the competition,” said Popovic.
“But I think we showed that we can compete at this level against an excellent team. We competed twice now against them. It’s a shame, a real shame that we couldn’t walk away tonight with the result.
“We are on six points, but we certainly gained a lot of belief from this performance.”
Kawasaki coach Yahiro Kazama, meanwhile, was pleased not only with the crucial win but also in the way his side dealt with a tough, awkward opponent in the shape of Western Sydney.
“This game was important in two parts. We made sure to collect three points at home, which we needed to achieve our qualification for the next stage. On top of that, we don’t often play against a team like them and we managed to break through and win this game,” said Kazama.
“Western Sydney changed around the way they played after the first leg, and that made us struggle today. They have good height and a longer reach than us, and we tried to find the space around them.
“But, as the game wore on we were playing with a better rhythm and I knew we should just get going and continue that good performance to break them.”
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