- Urawa defeat Al Hilal in AFC Champions League final second leg
- Newly-crowned Asian kings book berth at Club World Cup
- J-League side will start UAE 2017 campaign on 9 December in Abu Dhabi
Rafael da Silva bagged a 88th-minute winner for Urawa Red Diamonds to seal a 1-0 victory over ten-man Al Hilal in the AFC Champions League final second leg and book the J-League side’s place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.
The Brazilian forward’s thunderous strike gave Urawa a 2-1 victory on aggregate after last week’s first leg ended in a draw. It is the Japanese side’s second AFC Champions League title after first tasting continental success in 2007.
In front of a remarkable atmosphere at the Saitama Stadium 2002, with the home support producing plenty of colour and noise, hosts Urawa put the visitors under early pressure.
Al Hilal suffered an early scare when Kazuki Nagasawa benefited from a defensive mishap and latched onto the ball, but his effort in the opening minute went wide.
— #ACLFinal (@TheAFCCL) November 25, 2017
Takafumi Hori’s side continued to put Al Hilal on the backfoot in the early stages, with Rafael da Silva testing goalkeeper Abdullah Almayouf while Nagasawa launched a left-footed strike from the edge of the D.
As the first half progressed, however, the visitors started to grow into the game. Salem Al Dawsari showed good technique to hold off a challenge but fired narrowly over on 26 minutes, before having an effort deflected narrowly wide five minutes before the break. Uruguayan Nicolas Milesi worked himself into a dangerous position for the Saudi Arabian side but skewed his effort wide of the post.
In the second half, Milesi had a great chance to break the deadlock on 58 minutes, but his effort from inside the area was held by goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
Al Hilal goalkeeper Abdullah Almayouf produced a marvellous double save on 72 minutes after a dangerous Yosuke Kashiwagi free-kick to keep his side in the tie but the visitors suffered a blow five minutes later when they were reduced to ten men, Salem Al Dawsari being shown a second yellow card.
Urawa eventually broke the deadlock on 88 minutes when Brazilian forward Rafael da Silva found the net in style with a thunderous right-footed strike, much to the delight of the red-clad home support.
Urawa will kick off their Club World Cup campaign in Abu Dhabi on 9 December. They will face the winner of the first round game between 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League champions Al Jazira and OFC Champions League winners Auckland City.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) November 25, 2017
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.