Urawa earn valuable away draw
Urawa Red Diamonds earn away draw in first leg
Japanese side took early lead before Al Hilal equalised
Second leg: Saturday 25 November in Saitama, Japan
Al Hilal and Urawa Red Diamonds played to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of this year’s AFC Champions League final, despite the Saudi Arabian club dominating Saturday’s contest in Riyadh.
It was the Japanese club that took the lead just seven minutes into the contest at the King Fahd International Stadium. Rafael da Silva made an incisive run down the right flank before sending a low cross towards Al Hilal’s six-yard box. Salman Al Faraj’s attempted clearance was intercepted by the Brazilian, who duly converted from close range.
Despite falling behind, the home side controlled proceedings and created several chances to level the match. Their efforts were rewarded on 37 minutes when Omar Kharbin scored his tenth goal of the competition, striking a close-range effort through the legs of Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
The Saudi club remained dominant after the break, but their Far East visitors proved difficult to break down again, as Nishikawa made several important saves to earn a creditable away result for Urawa.
It leaves matters well poised for the decisive second leg, as Urawa host Al Hilal at Saitama Stadium 2002 in Saitama, Japan, on Saturday 25 November, with Red Diamonds holding the away goal advantage.
The 2017 AFC Champions League winner will join host club Al Jazira as Asia’s representatives at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017, which takes place from 6 to 16 December.