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Home win was crucial, admits Doi

Ibaraki: Shoma Doi has admitted that it is vital Kashima Antlers will start the second leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 against Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the lead after the holders secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory in the first leg on Tuesday.

The clash at Kashima Soccer Stadium paired the two sides against Japanese opposition for the first time ever in the Continental competition and it was Sanfrecce who went into the game as the form team having won five in a row in the group stage.

But in a closely contested match it was defending champions Kashima who gained the upper hand after Brazilian Serginho scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half following excellent work from Doi.

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“I believe we had to win at home in order for us to build some momentum ahead of the second leg,” said Doi, who played a key role in helping Kashima win their first AFC Champions League title in 2018.

“But although we won 1-0 today, the lead we have is almost nothing. We have the mindset that the game is still level and we will prepare for the second leg in Hiroshima as if the score was 0-0.”


Round of 16: Kashima Antlers v Sanfrecce Hiroshima

After an even beginning in which the visitors marginally shaded, it was a moment of brilliance from Doi that led to the only goal of the game.

Collecting the ball from a Serginho knockdown just inside the opposition half, Doi burst forward into the penalty area before his deflected cross found the Brazilian for the forward to head home from close range.

Defeat for Sanfrecce was their first since the opening game of the tournament and halts an impressive five-game winning run as Kashima will now travel to Hiroshima for next week's return meeting with a slight advantage.

“I was able to capitalise on the loose ball and saw there was space in front of me to run into,” explained Doi of the goal.

“I was in two minds whether to shoot or cross but in the end I chose to cross and we ended up scoring so it was the right decision.

“I want to thank the supporters who came here and created an amazing atmosphere despite it being a weekday – I am very grateful for them.”

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