Mensha: We’ve beaten better teams than Kashima
Tehran: Godwin Mensha has spoken of Persepolis’ belief ahead of the second leg of the 2018 AFC Champions League final by insisting the Iranian team have defeated better sides than Kashima Antlers in the tournament, as the pair prepare to clash at Azadi Stadium on Saturday.
Persepolis started well in the first leg at Kashima Soccer Stadium, but faded in the second half as the hosts took control. Goals from Brazilian duo Leo Silva and Serginho ultimately secured a 2-0 victory for Kashima and gave the Tehran side a mountain to climb in the return meeting.
But Persepolis have twice recovered from first-leg deficits in the knockout rounds, eliminating the United Arab Emirates’ Al Jazira and Qatar’s Al Duhail in dramatic fashion at Azadi Stadium, and the Japanese team will know the job is only half done ahead of what is sure to be an enthralling clash.
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“We have not lost at home in the AFC Champions League, which is a very good point, so the most important thing is to try and score some goals,” said the Nigerian striker.
“[As the forwards], I hope me and [Ali] Alipour can help bring us back into the game. That is really important for the team because they really need us to work hard to score.
“We have played against many good teams who are better than Kashima. I think that Al Sadd were much better, but it’s just that we conceded cheap goals. We will work very hard and try to finish everything at home.”
After losing the first leg of the last 16 3-2 against Al Jazira – a game in which both Mensha and Alipour scored – Persepolis recovered to win 2-1 at home and advance on away goals.
A similar situation occurred in the quarter-finals as the Tehran side lost 1-0 away at Al Duhail before Mensha scored the decisive goal in a 3-1 home victory that secured a second successive semi-final appearance.
Now, for a third time, Branko Ivankovic’s side will have to come from behind and face their toughest test yet as they go into the match two goals down and without an away goal.
“When we arrived [at Kashima Soccer Stadium] we felt their fans, but they now need to come and see what we have in Tehran; we expect our fans to support us in the final,” added Mensha, whose side have been inspired by capacity crowds at Azadi Stadium.
“It was a difficult result because we were trying to take a good result back home. We worked hard for the win but now I think it will be very hard because it’s the AFC Champions League final.
“We all believe in our fans, at our home, and we’ll try to work very hard to get the first goal and then goal by goal. The most important thing is that we don’t concede.”
Photo: Getty Images
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