Kaku confident Al Ain can finish job against Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr

UAE club will take 1-0 advantage over to Riyadh next Monday for Asian Champions League quarter-final second leg

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Al Ain forward Kaku knows well what faces his team when they travel to Al Nassr for the second leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-final next week, but he is confident they can complete the job in Saudi Arabia.

The Paraguay winger was instrumental in the UAE club’s 1-0 victory in the first leg in the Garden City on Monday night, assisting Sofiane Rahimi for the game’s only goal.

Kaku, 29, also had a goal chalked off at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium after Rahimi was narrowly offside before teeing up his teammate. The roles were reversed in the second half as Rahimi had another effort ruled out having strayed just beyond the Nassr backline.

As it is, Al Ain, 2003 Asian champions, head into the return leg in Riyadh next Monday with the narrowest of leads, something Cristiano Ronaldo's side will be intent on overturning as quickly as possible on home soil.

And, having represented Saudi Pro League club Al Taawoun before joining Al Ain last year, Kaku will be preparing Hernan Crespo's men for what to expect at Al Awwal Park.

“I know the Al Nassr team; I played three years in the Saudi league,” Kaku said. “So for sure there will be a lot of pressure, a full stadium in Riyadh. But, Inshallah, we will win.

“I see a very difficult game. We need to get ready, but first we have a semi-final in the [League Cup on Thursday] where we play here at home. But, the next round with Nassr, we need to prepare much better.”

Kaku was one of several standouts for Al Ain on Monday, alongside the likes of Rahimi, Matias Palacios, Park Yong-woo, Khalid Al Hashemi and goalkeeper Khalid Essa. Essa made a couple of fine saves from Ronaldo, especially late on, when he blocked the Nassr captain's close-range effort to seal the result.

Al Hashemi, meanwhile, seemed to revel in keeping at bay Ronaldo, the current top scorer in this season’s Saudi league.

Asked about Ronaldo perhaps having an off night in the first leg, Kaku said: “The defenders played very well, closing the space, and this is the most important aspect. It's not just Cristiano. But I think Al Nassr missed [injured striker Anderson] Talisca.

“I’m very happy for this victory, and we need to continue this way to go to the next round. I know Cristiano is a top player, and [fellow Portugal international] Otavio, but the team worked a lot. This is the secret for getting the win.”

On the belief Al Ain will take into the second leg, Kaku added: “All the team has confidence, but we need to keep working like this. It’s not enough [if we don’t], but hopefully we win the next game.”

Updated: March 05, 2024, 12:47 PM