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Hunt for title repeat keeps us going, says Koroki


Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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Saitama: Urawa Red Diamonds forward Shinzo Koroki says the two-time champions are motivated by thoughts of a third AFC Champions League title after Tuesday's 3-0 win over Beijing FC secured passage to the Knockout Stage.


There is a feeling amongst those at Urawa Red Diamonds of unfinished business at the AFC Champions League. Winners in 2017, the Reds were unable to qualify for the 2018 edition and thus never had the opportunity to retain their title.

The return to the Continental competition this year has, instead, been perceived as a belated defence of the championship they memorably lifted at Saitama Stadium after a victory over Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal.

And that aim, admitted Koroki, was a key motivating factor in the winner-take-all clash with Beijing FC on Matchday Six.

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"I really want to win the AFC Champions League again," said the 32-year-old, who netted Urawa's third of the night.

"The whole team has that goal in mind, to repeat our efforts from 2017, so we absolutely want to keep winning to achieve that.

"We had may fans come out to support us tonight, our thanks to them, and it's it really a result of their support that we were able to progress to the Round of 16."

 

While the result suggests an easy night for Urawa, the visitors actually dominated the game statistics with over 66 percent of possesion and almost double the number of passes.

The home side also lost 2017 AFC Champions League MVP Yosuke Kashiwagi to injury within the opening 13 minutes, an early setback that could have set doubts among the team and supporters.

But subsitute Kazuki Nagasawa rose to the occasion netting the first and making the second for Yuki Muto.

"Although Kashiwagi came off early, we're a team full of great players - a collection not individuals - and so there's always options throughout the squad," said Koroki.

"We started with this 11 but it doesn't matter who plays; we are together as a unit.

"In fact, we spoke together as a team before the match and agreed that we were going all out from the start, as we knew we needed the win."

Urawa's unified front helped them reach the knockout rounds for the fifth time in seven appearances at the AFC Champions League, with Koroki the leading scorer for the side in the 2019 campaign.

"Personally, I didn’t play as well as I could against Beijing FC, but I was happy to get a goal right at the end," he added.

"It’s really all thanks to my team mates and the supporters. I hope our supporters will continue to give us their strength into the next round."

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