Al Hilal’s missed chances give edge to Urawa for AFC Champions League final leg in Japan

May 1 – Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds will go into the second leg of the AFC Champions League final with a crucial away goal advantage after a 1-1 draw to reigning champions Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia.

In front of a sold out and passionate 50,881 crowd in the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Salem Al Dawsari opened the scoring for Al Hilal.

The Saudis put pressure on Urawa from the start and got their reward on 15 minutes. A cross from the right by Brazilian Michael saw a mix-up in the Urawa defense leaving Al Dawsari to fire into an open goal.

Al Hilal should have been two up on the half hour when another defensive error saw an overhit defensive pass to Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa go unpunished.

The second half started more evenly and it was Urawa who scored to level the tie.

Defender Ali Al Bulayhi attempted a sliding tackle to intercept a through pass but only sent the ball past his own goalkeeper and back off the upright to fall into the path of Shinzo Koroki.

Al Hilal stepped up the pressure again but suffered a significant late blow when Al Dawsari received a straight red card for kicking out at Ken Iwao who had brought him down. Iwao was booked for the foul but Al Hilal talisman Al Dawsari was off and out of the second leg next weekend.

The 1-1 draw mirrored the result from the first leg of the 2017 decider when Urawa lifted the trophy after winning the return leg 1-0 in the Saitama Stadium.

Al Hilal head coach Ramon Diaz rued the missed chance of the home advantage but said the final was not over yet.

“We started the match very well, we were good offensively and deservingly scored. However, this is the nature of a final and mistakes can complicate matters,” said Diaz. “The final, however, isn’t over yet. This final is over two matches and we will fight till the end.”

Urawa’a Polish coach Maciej Skorza was disappointed with Urawa’s performance in the early stages of the first half as they struggled to keep hold of the ball.
“We became calmer as the match progressed and created some chances through counter attacks but honestly, our intention was to play more offensively,” said Skorza.

“We have a mix of young and experienced players and we didn’t really know what to expect in the final against a team like Al Hilal.

“The target in the second half was to play a bit higher and force Al Hilal to make mistakes and from that, Koroki scored a very important goal.”

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1709040102labto1709040102ofdlr1709040102owedi1709040102sni@n1709040102osloh1709040102cin.l1709040102uap1709040102

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