Harry Kewell wary as Yokohama F Marinos closes on maiden Asian Champions League title

Harry Kewell guides his Yokohama F Marinos team during their ACL final first-leg win.

Harry Kewell guides his Yokohama F Marinos team during their ACL final first-leg win. Photo: Getty

Australian coach Harry Kewell remains wary of the threat posed by Hernan Crespo’s Al-Ain side despite guiding his Yokohama F Marinos to a 2-1 first-leg lead on home soil in the final of the Asian Champions League.

Marinos fought back in Saturday’s match after going behind to Mohammed Abbas’ 12th-minute strike to secure victory through late goals from Asahi Uenaka and Kota Watanabe, making the Japanese slight favourites ahead of the second leg in the United Arab Emirates.

The teams will meet again on May 25 with Kewell cautious ahead of the clash at the former champions’ Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

“We have to understand there’s another 90 minutes to be played and it’s going to be very difficult,” Socceroos great Kewell told reporters at Yokohama International Stadium.

“This is the challenge I set my team, that we set ourselves and we look forward to that. We have to concentrate, we have to work hard and tidy up in a few areas.

“They can enjoy the moment, but there’s still a long way to go in this tie.”

Both coaches know from experience how matches can change dramatically, with the pair on opposite sides during their playing days when Liverpool fought back from 3-0 down to defeat AC Milan on penalties in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final.

Kewell finished on the winning side that night in Istanbul and is refusing to allow his Marinos players to become complacent ahead of the second leg.

“I’m not going to sit here and say the game is finished,” he said. “I’m not silly enough to do that.

“Of course (Crespo’s) going to say that their team’s confident enough to go out there and get goals, but we’re also confident to go out there and score goals.

“We went out there and played a certain style and I feel confident in my team, not only in this game but throughout the competition, through the league.

“We’re getting stronger and stronger. So it’s going to be a great test for us, but it’s also going to be a very good test for them.”

Kewell, who only took over as Marinos coach in December, said he was eagerly anticipating the return leg, with the winners also earning Asia’s final berth at next year’s FIFA Club World Cup.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what they can bring and we will be there looking forward to this challenge,” he said.

“I’m excited about it because in football anything can happen. The one thing is we’ve got a good opportunity, and that’s all you can give yourself.”

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