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AFC Champions League: Andres Iniesta makes a mark in Doha as Vissel Kobe reach the quarter-finals


The Spanish legend could write a spcial chaptor in his sojourn with Vissel Kobe if they can go all the way…

J1 League outfit Vissel Kobe are enjoying a good run in the 2020 AFC Champions League East Zone tournament, currently being held in Qatar

The Kobe-based football club have just progressed to the quarter-finals (semifinals of the East Zone tournament) of the continent’s premier club competition. They notched a facile 2-0 win over Chinese giants Shanghai SIPG on Monday at the Khalifa International stadium, one of the venues for the 2022 World Cup. 

Powering them forward was none other than Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, who scored the opening goal in the 31st minute. Right-back Daigo Nishi, who has previously won the competition with Kashima Antlers, scored the second goal five minutes into the second half to send Vissel Kobe into the quarter-finals. 

It is a brilliant result for Vissel Kobe who are playing their first-ever AFC Champions League campaign, thanks to their Emperor’s Cup win in 2019. And they are ensuring that their maiden campaign among Asia’s best is one to remember. 

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“We are very happy that we played very well and the players stuck to the instructions. This victory is not just for us, but for all the fans back in Japan who sent us their messages of support,” said Vissel Kobe coach Atsuhiro Miura.

Hearteningly, it is their marquee signing in Andres Iniesta who is making the difference in Qatar. He scored a goal in a 3-1 win over Guangzhou Evergrande – a result that helped the club reach the Round of 16 from the group stages. 

The Spanish playmaker was involved throughout on Monday as well, producing an array of his trademark passes and taking the occasional potshot at goal while playing behind the Brazilian Douglas who led the lines well. Rightly so, he was named the man of the match as well. 

His goal was a throwback to the vintage form he displayed at his peak. He received the ball from Hotaru Yamaguchi, dribbled his way into the box and placed a finish past three defenders and the goalkeeper. 

The 36-year-old, who has literally won it all in a glittering career, looked to be as hungry as ever during the 65 minutes he was on the pitch. The result brings a very special achievement very much in the realms of possibility for Iniesta. 

Not many have won the continental titles in both Asia and Europe (at least ever since AFC Champions League was remodelled into the current format in 2001). One name that comes off the top of your head is Italian coach Marcelo Lippi who won the UEFA Champions League with Juventus (1995-96) before winning the AFC Champions League with Guangzhou Evergrande (2014). 

However, Lippi did it as a coach. Iniesta certainly has a chance to become the first player to do so. Thomas Vermaelen, former Barcelona defender who is also a part of the Vissel Kobe side, can also achieve this feat alongside Iniesta. 

And Doha could witness this historic moment if Iniesta and Vermaelen manage to power Vissel Kobe to the holy grail. 

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There is a bit of concern for Vissel Kobe though, given Iniesta was taken off after suffering what look like a thigh injury. They will hope the master playmaker’s injury is nothing serious and he returns for the semifinals. 

 





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