Asian Champions League: Urawa and Al Hilal in pole for final spots

October 3 – Italian playing legend Fabio Cannavaro, now looking to build a similar reputation as a coach at China’s Guangzhou Evergrande, says his team are still in Asian Champions League contention despite a first leg semi-final loss to Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds. In the other semi Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal look favourites for the final after a 4-1 away win at Qatar’s Al Sadd.

Guangzhou’s winless run has now extended to six straight games in all competitions and will require a major comeback in the second leg at Tianhe Stadium on October 23 to overcome the 2-0 deficit from the first leg.

“After going 14 matches in a row without losing a single match I can see that the team has kind of stopped,” said Cannavaro. “But now we have to be smart to get back because we still have a chance in the AFC Champions League and to win the Chinese Super League because we are in pole position. We can do that but we have to be smart.”

Urawa may have been struggling this season in the J-League but when it comes to Champions League they  seem to find an extra gear. Urawa won the ACL in 2007 and 2017 champions and like Guangzhou are seeking a third title.

Spectacular strikes from Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine gave them the advantage in the hunt for a final spot against either Al Hilal or Al Sadd.

Al Hilal’s Romanian head coach Răzvan Lucescu is fully aware of the advantage his side hold following the resounding 4-1 win over Qatar’s Al Sadd SC in Doha. They are hoping to return to Doha in December as AFC champions for the Club World Cup.

Al Hilal were behind after 15 minutes when Bafétimbi Gomis (pictured) scored an own goal, but the French forward subsequently scored in each half to set up a comfortable win after Qatar’s Abdulkarim Hassan sent off in the first half.

While Lucescu admitted that Al Hilal struggled in the opening moments of the match, the Romanian tactician was left delighted by the nature of his side’s comeback.

“Our start to the match was not good and we found it very difficult,” said Lucescu. “We took advantage of playing with a man more on the pitch after Abdulkarim Hassan’s red card. That is something which helped us register this big victory.

Gomis’ two goals took his season tally to nine, moving him level with Al Wahda’s Leonardo at the top of the scorers’ list in the competition.

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