Urawa Red Diamonds falling behind to Kawasaki Frontale in Wednesday’s AFC Champions League quarter-final second leg proved to be a blessing in disguise, according to striker Zlatan Ljubijankic.
Already trailing 3-1 on aggregate, the Reds found themselves further behind when Elsinho broke the deadlock at Saitama Stadium 2002 after 19 minutes.
But after Shinzo Koroki had equalised for the hosts, Kawasaki were then reduced to ten men when Shintaro Kurumaya was sent off for dangerous play.
70' GOAL! 2-1 @REDSOFFICIAL
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The numerical difference proved to be telling in the second half as Ljubijankic, Rafael Silva and Toshiyuki Takagi hit the target to seal a stunning come-from-behind triumph for Urawa.
While going behind is certainly not what most teams have in mind in a game, the former Slovenia international is of the belief that it actually helped them.
“Now if you look like that, it’s certain,” said Ljubijankic, who scored to make it 2-1 just seven minutes after coming on as a substitute to swing the momentum firmly in Urawa’s favour.
“You never know what would happen if they didn’t score. But if you look now, maybe it was better that they scored and we could change our mind and come back – maybe it was better that way.
“I don’t know; we always take the more difficult way. I’m happy we didn’t lose our belief that we could turn the tables, and we did it.
“It felt similar to the [quarter-final] against Jeju [United, where Urawa had trailed 2-0 on aggregate but won 3-2].
“You feel that energy and the supporters give you a little bit more. That’s what we needed today and we made it also with their help, we made it possible.”
Urawa, who previously won the Champions League in 2007, will now meet Shanghai SIPG in the semi-finals.