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Oiwa: Inexperience reason for Kashima's opening match struggle

Ibaraki: Go Oiwa blamed inexperience rather than fatigue for Kashima Antlers’ laboured start to the defence of their AFC Champions League title on Tuesday as the 2018 winners struggled to see off Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim.

Injures to a number of key players – including Yuma Suzuki and Leo Silva - forced Oiwa to field a number of young players for his side’s first game in the group phase of the 2019 campaign, but the eight-time J.League champions still picked up all three points in the Group E clash with a 2-1 win.

“This is the first match of the AFC Champions League and we won the three points, that’s all we can take from this game,” said Oiwa. “You never know what’s going to happen in any game in this tournament and that’s something I told our players."

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“The way we played and how we controlled the game, we shouldn’t really give chances to the opposition. Now we have to refocus our minds and move on to the next game.

“I really wanted to show a much better performance for our fans because they came out to support us but our players today fought hard for 90 minutes and that’s something we would like to take into our next game.”


Group E: Kashima Antlers vs Johor Darul Ta'zim

Brazilian striker Serginho missed a 14th minute penalty before Taiki Hirato opened the scoring when Farizal Marlias misjudged a curling cross from the left, and Serginho made amends for his earlier miss with a spectacular second for the Japanese side.

And while Diogo pulled one back for JDT 10 minutes from time, Kashima had done enough to take the points.

“I noticed we were making too many easy mistakes individually and that’s something I talked to the players about (at halftime) but when I look at the positive side that was something that happened while we were taking initiative in the game,” said Oiwa. “I told the players to make sure to be in the right positions in attack.

“I don't think it was because of fatigue, it was more technical than that. When the players made mistakes they felt negative mentally and they couldn’t recover from that immediately. That’s because we had so many young players and some of them are not playing regularly.

“If you have a team like that and you make mistakes then that really affects the team. That happened so many times today. When you have such a situation you need players who can do something positive – even something small – and that’s something we needed.”

Kashima travel to play China PR's Shandong Luneng next on Tuesday.

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