East to meet West in AFC final
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Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad and Pohang Steelers of Korea Republic marched into the AFC Champions League final in similarly impressive fashion on Wednesday, both teams recording identical away wins against Japan's Nagoya Grampus and Umm Salal of Qatar respectively in the second leg of their last-four ties.

After inspiring Al Ittihad to a 6-2 home win in last week's semi-final first leg, mercurial schemer Mohammed Noor was also the most influential figure in the return, helping the visiting Saudi champions upstage their Japanese hosts 2-1 to clinch an 8-3 aggregate success. In Wednesday's later game, two goals in the space of four second-half minutes in the second half paved Pohang's path to a 2-1 second-leg victory on Qatari soil and a 4-1 triumph on aggregate.

The final on 7 November will take place at the National Stadium in Tokyo, with the winners earning the right to represent Asia at December's FIFA Club World Cup.

The big game
Nagoya Grampus (JPN) 1-2 Al Ittihad (KSA)

Nagoya coach Dragan Stojkovic had urged his players to put their emphatic first-leg loss behind them and, roared on by their passionate home crowd, they did everything but score in the opening stages. Nagoya could have taken the lead after 17 minutes when Josh Kennedy sent an effort whistling past the post. And the big Australian forward threatened again just after the half-hour mark when he rattled the bar with a header, before Keiji Tamada saw his stinging shot fly wide.

The hosts' profligacy came back to haunt them four minutes before the interval, Nagoya keeper Toru Hasegawa parrying a fierce shot from Al Ittihad skipper Noor into the path of Saleh Al Saqri, who made no mistake. Noor also had a hand in the Saudi outfit's second goal on when crossing for striker Amine Chermiti, on loan from Hertha Berlin, whose 59th-minute header put the match and the tie beyond doubt. Substitute Keita Sugimoto did pull one back for the hosts eight minutes later but it was a case of too little, too late.

The surprise
Umm Salal (QAT) 1-2 Pohang Steelers (KOR)
While it was by no means a shock that Pohang emerged victorious once more, the fact they won the decisive second leg so comfortably on Qatari soil did raise eyebrows. Umm Salal, who had swept past the likes of Al Ettifaq and FC Seoul en route to the last four, were found short throughout, lacking the thrust and drive they had previously shown on home soil.

After a goalless opening 45 minutes largely dominated by Pohang, the Korean visitors broke the deadlock ten minutes after the interval through Stevica Ristic. The Macedonian striker beat the offside trap before breaking into the area and unleashing a thunderous effort into the far corner of the net. Within four minutes the visitors had doubled their lead courtesy of No Byung-Jun's sublime effort, with Ibrahima Nadiya grabbing a last-gasp consolation for the hosts via a firmly struck free-kick.

The star
Saudi Arabia stumbled at the final hurdle in Asian Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, with an injury-time equaliser from Bahrain's Ismaeel Latif shattering their hopes of appearing at a fifth consecutive finals. There would be no such heartbreak for the Saudi club champs, however, who held firm throughout to win both legs of their semi-final tie, thanks to an inspirational display from Mohammed Noor.

The stat
4
- Al Ittihad's clash with Pohang Steelers will be the fourth AFC Champions League final between teams from East and West Asia in competition history.

The words
"Despite our big win in the first leg, playing away against a strong team like Nagoya was no easy task. In fact, you always have a 50-50 chance of winning any match but we always play for the win, just as we did in today's game and will continue to do so in the final." Al Ittihad head coach Gabriel Calderon

2009 AFC Champions League semi-final second-leg results
28 October
Nagoya Grampus (JPN) 1-2 Al Ittihad (KSA)
Umm Salal (QAT) 1-2 Pohang Steelers (KOR)