Hiroshima's Jofuku braced for tough return leg
Ibaraki: Hiroshi Jofuku is under no illusions over the difficulty of the task facing his Sanfrecce Hiroshima side after they slipped to a 1-0 loss in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 match-up with defending champions Kashima Antlers on Tuesday.
Brazilian striker Serginho scored the only goal of the game to give the holders the upper hand going into next week’s return leg in Hiroshima and Jofuku knows his team face an uphill battle to turn the tie around despite Kashima only having a narrow advantage.
"I think the boys gave it everything they had,” he said. “We were aware of Kashima's strengths and thought that we did a good job of stopping them from creating legitimate chances.
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“But Kashima have always been a club that take the opportunities they have. It was difficult to get into our rhythm after they scored and it turned out to be a difficult match.
"Obviously it would have been good had we scored because we were the away side. At the same time, we did not want to get caught out chasing one. I thought we showed our resilience there.”
Hiroshima were forced to see out the final moments of the match with 10 men following Sho Inagaki’s sending off for a pair of bookable offences in quick succession four minutes from time, but Jofuku’s side managed to close out the game without conceding a second.
"The way the game unfolded was frustrating but we kept it to the bare minimum,” said Jofuku, who remains upbeat despite the loss. “I hope we can score next time because I liked what I saw in our build-up. We have our work cut out for us."
Kashima coach Go Oiwa was delighted with his team’s performance and the fact the champions will take an advantage into the second leg in a week’s time despite a number of absentees.
"It was the first leg, at home, so it was crucial not to concede and win,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the result, but we're only halfway through a 180-minute battle. We need to improve on our performance for the second leg."
FULL-TIME | @atlrs_official 🇯🇵 1-0 @sanfrecce_SFC 🇯🇵— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) June 18, 2019
🇧🇷 forward Serginho does it again in the KO rounds to ensure the defending champions take a slender lead into the 2⃣nd leg in Hiroshima. #KASvSAN #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/Fi30N7Qjt7
"We have some injuries but I need to see how fit everyone of us is before deciding on my line-up for the next game.
"I need to analyse our opponents, check on our bench players. We only had three days since our game against Cerezo Osaka but I thought we were as fit as we could be."
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