• Kyodo


Zlatan Ljubijankic insists Urawa Reds have no intention of parking the bus when they take on Kashima Antlers at home in the second leg of the J. League Championship Final on Saturday night.

Having won the first leg 1-0 away on Tuesday courtesy of captain Yuki Abe’s 57th-minute penalty, Reds, by virtue of finishing top of the overall standings, only need to avoid defeat conceding two or more goals to clinch their first league crown since 2006.

But Ljubijankic says Reds defending en masse to protect their lead would be a massive error and that will not be the game plan in front of their home fans at a sold-out Saitama Stadium.

“We don’t play like that. I think that would be a big mistake,” the Slovenian striker told Kyodo News after the team wrapped up their preparations on Friday.

“A good defense is not getting everybody behind the ball and just defending. Attack from the front and not let them come near our goal is what we are going to do. Trying to protect our lead (from the first leg) is the worst thing that we could do in front of our own fans.”

“We are going to try and play the way we know to win tomorrow’s game, not just protect the result.”

Urawa lost 2-0 at home to Kashima in the league in June, but Ljubijankic said that will be far from the players’ minds on Saturday.

“Many times when we conceded two goals at home this season it was because of our mistakes and we won’t be thinking about that,” he said. “We know normally if we play well and play our game then we don’t be giving our opponents too many chances.

“They (Kashima) have to risk more and space at the back will open up for us, and we have to use that and try and score one or two goals and then it is finished.”

Despite holding the advantage ahead of the second leg, Reds coach Mihialo Petrovic said his team must take nothing for granted.

“We got a good result in the first leg but there are no guarantees that we are going to win the second game,” he said.

“We did some things well in the first leg, defended well, but other things, like our combinations, were not so good and adjustments need to be made.”

Kashima manager Masatada Ishii said he was well aware of the task facing the seven-time league champion.

“We know what we have to do,” Ishii said. “We have prepared knowing that we have to score two goals.”

Kashima’s Mu Kanazaki, who has been nursing a bruised left ankle and Yasushi Endo, who fell ill after Tuesday’s game, trained without any problems Friday, while playmaker Gaku Shibasaki is expected to start on Saturday.

Saturday’s game will be preceded by a moment’s silence following the plane crash in Colombia that killed most of Brazilian club Chapecoense’s team, the J. League announced Friday.

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