Korea Republic's Jeonbuk Motors moved one step closer to glory in the AFC Champions League after goals from Yeom Ki-Hun and Botti saw them secure a 2-0 home win over Al Karama 2-0 in the first leg of the final.
Both goals came in the second half, with the deadlock broken on 59 minutes after a defensive lapse by the visitors gifted Yeom a routine opener. Botti, introduced as a half-time substitute, then added a late second in stoppage time to leave Jeonbuk's Syrian opponents with a mountain to climb ahead of next week's return leg in Homs.
Yeom, speaking afterwards, said: "I am pleased that I scored the opening goal but I'm happier because our team won. The coach told us at the interval to concentrate and create chances from the flanks, and his tactics paid off. Winning the Champions League would be a kind of compensation for our poor run in the domestic league this season. It also gives us such a rare opportunity to participate in the Club World Cup, so we are doing our best to make it through."
Jeonbuk might have emerged triumphant in the end, but it was the Syrians who looked like a home side during the opening exchanges, with midfielder Aattef Jenniat almost setting up a shock opener as early as the sixth minute.
The home side's coach, Choi Kang-Hee, who later acknowledged that Al Karama had proved "stronger than expected", was looking on anxiously at this stage, and his unease grew when he saw his goalkeeper, Kwoun Sun-Tae Ahmad, forced into a solid save from Ahmad Al Omier's 20-metre drive.
Choi had to wait until half-an-hour into the match before his own team mustered an effort of note, which came when Yeom Ki-Hun broke in through the left flank to whip in a that Al Karama keeper Mosab Balhous was brave and quick enough to punch clear.
However, it required an inspired half-time substitution to turn the tide in Jeonbuk's favour, with the introduction of Brazilian playmaker Botti for defender Kim Hyun-Su key to the Koreans' second half success.
"I brought in Botti at half time and moved Chung Jung-Kwan forward to change the flow," Choi reflected afterwards. "We had the upper hand in terms of physical abilities in the second half, which was crucial to our victory."
The home team certainly pushed forward immediately after the break, with Wang Jung-Hyun testing Balhous with a left-footed volley from close range and Yeom posing the keeper a problem from 25 metres, both within the space of a couple of minutes.
Botti was also proving influential and on 55 minutes he had a golden opportunity to put his side into the lead, but wasted it, turning Yeom's low cross over the bar when it appeared easier to score
Jeonbuk finally took the lead, however, a minute from the hour mark when Yeom stabbed home left-footed from close range following a costly error by defender Jehad Kassab.
The siege on the Al Karama goal was maintained, however, and after Ze Carlo had only just failed to connect with a header and Lim You-Hwan, had forced a fine save from Balhous, the home side's lead was doubled in stoppage time. Balhous might have thought he had done enough when he managed to parry away Chung Jong-Kwan's low cross from the right, but the ball rolled straight to the onrushing Botti, who slotted home with his right foot.
However, despite this result leaving Jeonbuk as the overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy, coach Choi was understandably wary of a team who have proved masters of the comeback en route to the final.
"I'm satisfied with today's 2-0 win and most importantly the fact that we didn't concede a goal," he said. "But I don't think we have the edge with this scoreline. We have another 90 minutes to play in the next week's away leg and I hope we will be able to play better football."
Al Kamara coach Mohammed Kwid admitted, however, that his side had set themselves an exceptionally difficult task - and insisted they only had themselves to blame.
"We were not in the right position to achieve a result in this game," he said. "In the second half we allowed too many scoring opportunities to Jeonbuk. We were hoping to concede only one goal here but we will have to be better in the second leg. I cannot talk about the details or strategy at the moment, but we still have one more game to play."