Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Saitama: The 2017 AFC Champions League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Yosuke Kashiwagi paid tribute to the unity of the Urawa Red Diamonds team and their supporters as the playmaker celebrated his side’s second continental title after a 1-0 win over Al Hilal on Saturday that secured a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Kashiwagi and his side came out on top for the seventh successive time at home in the AFC Champions League when, following a 1-1 draw in Riyadh in the first leg a week earlier, Rafael Silva netted his ninth goal of the tournament in the 88th minute to settle matters at the tournament’s finale hosted at the Saitama Stadium.
While it was Yuki Muto, not Kashiwagi, who played the assist for Silva’s winner, the 29-year-old Japan international has been in impressive form throughout the tournament, particularly in the knockout stages where he laid on a number of goals for his teammates, and also scored a vital goal in the semi-finals against Shanghai SIPG.
“While I don’t think I deserve this award, I am, of course, very honoured to receive this recognition,” said Kashiwagi.
“I am very flattered and proud. I will certainly do my best to honour this award.”
The former Sanfrecce Hiroshima star was, however, quick to deflect the praise and acclaim his fellow Urawa Reds players and their loyal supporters who packed the stands in Saitama.
Indeed, the Reds finish the tournament with a 100 percent record in Japan after ending Al Hilal’s impressive 13-game unbeaten streak.
“A lot of our success is due to the way we came together as a team,” he added.
“The communication under [coach Takafumi] Hori has been very good and we learnt a lot in this tournament, playing a lot of very good teams.
“We didn’t play so well away from home, but very well at home.
“For me, this is due to the way the Reds' supporters encouraged us and cheered us on.
“It is like our fans and the team came together as one and were able to win the AFC Champions League title.”