Japan AFC Champions League

Frontale rue poor finishing in ACL loss despite defensive improvements

Kawasaki Frontale manager Toru Oniki found himself in the hot seat for the second time this week after his team’s 1-0 loss to visiting Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday night in their AFC Champions League opener.

The J.League champions struggled to respond to Elkeson’s opener in the 23rd minute; a Kengo Nakamura header which forced a save by eventual man-of-the-match Yan Junling was perhaps the best chance the hosts had to equalize on a chilly evening at Todoroki Stadium.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get a win in front of so many fans who attended our first home game of the season,” Oniki said after the match. “But there’s more than enough possibility for us to get through the group stage.

“We created a lot of chances tonight but couldn’t score a goal. [SIPG’s] counter attacks caused us to hesitate and not be as aggressive as we could have been. Several little things added up; we weren’t able to counter from a higher position, [and] we need to improve our finishing.”

Despite a loss which ended Frontale’s home unbeaten streak in the ACL at five matches, the second-year manager saw improvement in his side’s defending just three days removed from their 3-2 Super Cup defeat to Cerezo Osaka.

“We’re improving defensively. The players responded quickly after losing the ball and fought hard to win it back,” Oniki noted. “We have to keep working hard and doing our best for each match.”

Frontale will travel to Ulsan Hyundai for the second round of the group stage on February 20 before opening their 2018 J1 League campaign at Jubilo Iwata on Sunday, February 25.