Our tactics paid off, says Koroki
Saitama: Man-of-the-match Shinzo Koroki believes that Urawa Red Diamonds' attacking intent helped the two-time champions to their fourth AFC Champions League semi-final following an away goals victory over Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday.
The hosts came into the quarter-final tie at Saitama Stadium with a narrow advantage after a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Shanghai last month, and got off on the front foot in front of their home support, before eventually taking the lead on 39 minutes after Koroki's powerful header ricocheted into the net off Shanghai SIPG goalkeeper Yan Junling.
The forward, who is enjoying his most prolific campaign in the AFC Champions League to date, was on target in the first leg against Shanghai as well as netting a brace against Ulsan Hyundai in the Round of 16.
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"We knew that 1-1 or 0-0 would be enough at home, but then that does bring tricky situations psychologically as to whether we should defend or not," said the 33-year-old, who with 11 goals is also Urawa's leading scorer in the J.League.
"But we decided to go for the win, pressing high and attacking.
"I think it worked as we intercepted the ball in good positions and scored first."
Although Wang Shenchao did restore parity on the night, when he fired home from Yu Hai's cross on the hour-mark, Urawa were able to see out the rest of the match to progress into the last four and a date with either countrymen Kashima Antlers or China PR's Guangzhou Evergrande who play on Wednesday.
And, with six goals to his AFC Champions League tally so far, Urawa will be hoping Koroki's rich vein of form in front of goal continues when the first leg of the semi-final comes around on October 2.
"I don’t think it’s just about my form," he insisted. "My teammates work hard to create the chances and the ball comes to me in the end.
"So I really appreciate my teammates. Also, I've been able to score those chances quite clinically, and so my tally has grown.
"If I could be the Top Scorer of the tournament, my team will win. So, of course I want to score for my team."
What motivates Koroki most, though, is the chance to become an Asian champion once more.
"We won the AFC Champions League two years ago, and I want to experience that joy once more," he added.
"It was a great feeling so I want to have that again. I try to play well in each game in order to reach that pinnacle a second time."
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