KASHIMA: Leo Silva’s opener and Serginho’s eye-catching strike put Kashima Antlers firmly on top in the Asian Champions League final as they beat Persepolis 2-0 in the home leg on Saturday.
The Brazilians both scored in the second half to give Japan’s Kashima an important cushion ahead of next week’s return game at the imposing Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
Persepolis suffered a further blow in injury time when Siamak Nemati received a second yellow card for dissent, ruling him out of the second leg.
Serginho’s goal was the highlight as the 23-year-old new signing struck with a delicate half-volley from a difficult angle — his fifth goal in five Champions League games.
It gave Go Oiwa’s team the advantage they had targeted before their trip to face the record 11-time Iranian champions on home soil.
The game started promisingly in Kashima when Ali Alipour looked certain to score from close range, but saw his shot blocked by the face of a lunging Jung Seung-hyun.
Kashima goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae also had to be on his toes to tip over Ahmad Nourollahi’s curling free kick in the sixth minute.
But they were the brightest moments of an otherwise cagey first half, and the crowd had to wait until 12 minutes after the break before the deadlock was broken.
Silva caught the Persepolis defence napping as he played a one-two on the edge of the box with Shoma Doi and then swept a low, left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
On 69 minutes, Kento Misao picked out Serginho and the Brazilian beat past Alireza Beiranvand in the Persepolis goal with the outside of his left boot.
Kashima reached their first Champions League final after a rollercoaster semi with South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings, when they came from behind in both legs to win 6-5 on aggregate.
Persepolis also made it to the final for the first time when they edged Qatar’s Al Sadd, the new club of Barcelona great Xavi, 2-1 over the two legs. —AFP