- Kashima Antlers win maiden AFC Champions League crown
- Goalless draw at Persepolis secures title for Japanese club
- Kashima to make second appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup next month
Kashima Antlers claimed their first-ever AFC Champions League title after a 0-0 second-leg draw with Persepolis in IR Iran on Saturday ensured a 2-0 aggregate success. With the result, the Japanese club claim Asia’s berth at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, having debuted at the world finals back in 2016.
Playing in front of a full and passionate crowd at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Kashima looked fairly comfortable during the opening half, despite Persepolis pressing forward in search of goals.
The visitors had the first chance of the match, but Shoma Doi was unable to find the target with a low shot just before the quarter-hour mark.
Persepolis created opportunities in the latter stages of the first 45 minutes, but Kashima’s Korean goalkeeper Kwoun Suntae was equal to efforts from Ali Alipour, Bashar Resan and Ahmad Nourollahi.
The second half proved just as comfortable for the J.League outfit, as Persepolis struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities after the restart. Alipour saw two efforts miss the target for the home side, while Resan had a free-kick attempt strike the Kashima wall and cleared away to safety in the late stages.
Victory for Kashima sees them become the third Japanese side to win Asian football’s top club prize after Urawa Red Diamonds (2007, 2017) and Gamba Osaka (2008).
As this year’s AFC Champions League winners, Kashima join Al Ain (hosts), CD Guadalajara (CONCACAF), Esperance de Tunis (CAF), Real Madrid (UEFA) and Team Wellington (OFC) in securing their berth at UAE 2018.
Kashima finished runners-up at the Club World Cup in 2016, taking eventual winners Real Madrid to extra time in Japan.