In front of nearly 55,000 home supporters in Saitama, north of Tokyo, Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds defeated Saudi Arabia’s reigning champions Al Hilal 1-0 to win their third Asian Champions League championship. Early in the second half of the last leg, which resulted in a 2-1 aggregate victory for Urawa, Andre Carrillo of Al Hilal scored an own goal to give Urawa the decisive advantage. More football predictions here!
“Today, we are very happy that, after a few months working hard, thinking about this game, we are winning this trophy for the fantastic supporters at this huge club,” Urawa coach Maciej Skorza said. “This is a big honor for me and it’s just amazing. It’s difficult to find a way to describe this win. “I feel the spirit of the support and it’s something special.” Get the latest football handicap and more here!
Both teams entered the match from a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the finals. The Japanese side had a hard-time during the first-half as pressure from Al Hilal, who were looking to win a record fifth continental title and a third in four seasons, was felt. Urawa’s Goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa produced crucial saves in the 21st and 42nd minutes to keep the game scoreless.
The game-changing moment came when Carrillo diverted a header from Urawa’s Marius Hoibraten into his own goal in the 48th minute. Al-Hilal needed a goal to equalize the match and force an extra time. However, Nishikawa reacted to block away Igahlo’s goal-bound shot in the 90th minute, and Urawa held on and denied Al-Hilal’s chance to force extra time. The stadium burst into celebration following the final whistle.
“The team played very well here, much better than in the first leg in Riyadh,” said Al Hilal coach Ramon Diaz, who also coached the club when the two teams met in the 2017 final. “They tried to create many chances, but unfortunately we couldn’t translate any of them into goals.”
In August of last year, Urawa defeated Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea to advance to the championship game against the reigning team. The Asian Champions League season started more than a year after the final was scheduled, due to delays brought on by the winter World Cup in Qatar and COVID-19 regulations. The Reds will now represent Asia in the Saudi Arabia 2023 FIFA World Cup.