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Miura praises Vissel Kobe resolve after getting past Suwon Samsung Bluewings in AFC Champions League


Doha: Vissel Kobe head coach Atsuhiro Miura commended his players for getting the job done, after they took 120 minutes and penalties to see off 10-man Suwon Samsung Bluewings in Thursday’s 2020 AFC Champions League quarter-final at Al Janoub Stadium.

Behind after seven minutes to a Park Sang-hyeok goal, Vissel’s prospects swung sharply on the 38th-minute red card to Suwon’s Kim Tae-hwan, with Kyogo Furuhashi levelling the tie from the resultant free-kick.

Despite holding a numerical advantage for more than 80 minutes, Miura’s side were unable to find a winning goal in open play, ultimately prevailing 7-6 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw, and extending their sensational first appearance in the competition all the way to Sunday’s semi-final against Ulsan Hyundai FC of Korea Republic.

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“I want to congratulate our players and fans and also Suwon Samsung Bluewings players who worked really hard in this game,” said Miura, who won the AFC Asian Cup twice as a player

“For 90 minutes with 10 men, they fought hard and made it difficult for us. We always like to score more goals; we couldn’t do that but at the end we won and that is what matters.”

“Yes, we created a lot of chances, but it means not just that we are missing goals, they defended well and were concentrated. (Vissel striker) Douglas is a very good player, maybe today was not his day and maybe in the next game he can score.

"Sometimes even with one man more, you cannot find goals, this happens in football and sometimes 10 men can play better than 11," said Miura.

Vissel Kobe win 7-6 on penalties)

One the game’s most interesting subplots revolved around Vissel’s former FC Barcelona star Andres Iniesta, who was named on the bench after sustaining a muscle injury against Shanghai SIPG in the Round of 16 on Monday, and only finally emerged as a 112th minute substitute against Suwon.

The FIFA World Cup winner was clearly not at full fitness during his cameo, but he did manage to convert Vissel’s first penalty in the shootout – wincing in apparent pain after doing so – and Miura explained the rationale behind his decision to feature the 36-year-old.

Of course, Iniesta couldn’t touch so many balls in the game, but his presence makes a difference for us and for the opponents,” said Miura.

“Once he came in, (Suwon) had to be more cautious with him and pay more attention to him in their defence, especially as they don’t know exactly how fit he is.

“He took the penalty and he led us. He is a leader who commands players respect and once he took the first penalty, the players wanted to follow suit.”

Only at the helm since late September, Miura has presided after a dramatic shift in fortunes for Vissel Kobe.

They came into the AFC Champions League’s centralised Doha bubble after losing five matches in a row but now find themselves two wins away from winning the Asian title at their first attempt, but Miura – who played for the club from 2005 to 2007 – attributes their success to evolution rather than revolution.

“The thing that changed for us is…no change,” he said. “Our team concept is the same, we always want to be focused on our team.

“We didn’t do well in the league, but we stayed focused and prepared for this tournament, we said we would not change, and this is where we are.”

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