Harry Kewell says Yokohama 'ready to write our name in history' in ACL final

Japanese side hold 2-1 advantage heading into second leg of Asian Champions League title match

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Harry Kewell has urged Yokohama F Marinos to write their names into history against Al Ain on Saturday.

The Japanese side hold a 2-1 advantage ahead of the second leg of the AFC Champions League final.

Yokohama have been champions of Japan seven times, but this is the first time they have reached the final of Asia’s showpiece competition.

Kewell, who took over as manager last year, says his side are ready to meet the challenge of becoming continental champions.

“We know it is going to be difficult,” Kewell said. “We have earned the right to be here. We have a one-goal lead.

“We know Al Ain are going to try to intimidate, to make it loud, and to make it uncomfortable for us. We know that about football.

“But we also know what we are capable of doing. We know that if you want to win you have to face these challenges. We are ready to face this challenge.

“We are ready to upgrade. We are ready to write our name in history, but we know we can’t do that without challenges.

“It will be a big challenge for us, but we are going to look forward to it, and do that with a smile on our faces.”

Much has been made of the fact the final pits together Kewell and Hernan Crespo, the Al Ain manager, in opposing dugouts.

Despite scoring two goals, Crespo was on the losing AC Milan side in the 2005 Uefa Champions League against a Liverpool team which included Kewell.

Kewell suggested his playing experiences will count for little when his side bid to defend their advantage at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday.

“As a player, yes, I have been there and seen it,” Kewell said. “As a manager, it is new to me.

“I am not going to say I have experienced it before. But I am enjoying the experience.

“The thing I am enjoying about it is seeing my players enjoying it. I’m enjoying seeing the players play with a smile on their face.

“Playing the right way, the way we want to play – that is what makes me happy. That is what makes me proud, and what gives me confidence.

“I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. But what I can tell you is my team are ready.”

Crespo used his own press conference on the eve of the second leg to implore Al Ain’s fans to make the stadium as difficult as possible for their visitors.

Kewell greeted that idea with a smile that said: “Bring it on.” He even invoked a little of the spirit of his predecessor as Yokohama manager – and fellow Australian – Kevin Muscat in suggesting his side would relish a febrile atmosphere.

Muscat, a famously fierce player, spent two seasons of his playing career at Millwall, the London side whose fans defiantly sing: “No one likes us, we don’t care.”

Kewell intimated his side know the feeling. “He [Crespo] is calling for help, which is fair enough,” Kewell said.

“You call on your supporters to try to make it intimidating. But we are used to going places where a lot of people don’t like us because of the way we play football.

“We are going to be prepared for that. We are not worried about it. In fact, the louder and more intimidating they are, probably the better it will be for us.

“We are looking forward to the atmosphere tomorrow. Our team are ready for it, and I think it will be exciting.”

Updated: May 25, 2024, 4:35 AM