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AFC Champions League 2022 Final, 1st Leg: Urawa Reds fight back to hold Al Hilal

AFC Champions League 2022 Final, 1st Leg: Urawa Reds fight back to hold Al Hilal
Source: AFC Media

Riyadh: Urawa Red Diamonds took home a valuable away goal as they held Al Hilal SFC to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the AFC Champions League 2022 final at King Fahd International Stadium on Saturday.

Salem Al Dawsari opened the scoring for Al Hilal and Shinzo Koroki levelled the scores in front of 50,881 fans.

The hosts dominated the early proceedings but without creating any clear cut chances as Urawa retreated to defend in a compact shape around their area.

Just before the 15-minute mark, a Michael cross from the right flank looked destined for a comfortable Shusaku Nishikawa save, but a lack of communication between him and Danish centre-back Alexander Scholz allowed the ball to find its way to Al Dawsari at the far post and the Al Hilal winger made no mistakes burying it into the back of the empty net for the opener.

The few hundred Urawa fans present at King Fahd International Stadium breathed a collective sigh of relief in the 31st minute when their side survived a second near fatal mistake. Ken Iwao dropped deep to collect a short pass from Nishikawa but his return pass to the goalkeeper was overhit, leaving the veteran number one to gather all his technical ability to deal with the awkward situation.

Urawa’s first attempt came in the last five minutes of the half as Yoshio Koizumi received the ball on the left following a short corner kick routine but his cross-cum-shot sailed high and wide of the Al Hilal goal.

The action restarted with a quick exchange of attacks at both ends, and within eight minutes it was Urawa who got the goal.

Defender Ali Al Bulayhi attempted a sliding tackle to intercept a through pass aimed towards Koroki, but in doing so, sent the ball past his own goalkeeper and back off the upright to fall for the veteran Urawa forward who applied the finish to restore parity.

Al Hilal tried to fight back with Michael looking to catch Nishikawa off guard as he rose high at the far post to head Mohammed Al Burayk’s cross, but the Japanese goalkeeper was alert to the threat and made the save.

Al Hilal’s fortunes suffered a major blow late on as Al Dawsari received a direct red card for kicking out at Ken Iwao who had brought him down and was booked for the foul. It is the second time Al Hilal’s number 29 was sent-off against Urawa after the 2017 final.

The 1-1 draw is a repeat of the result from the first leg of the 2017 decider when Urawa lifted the trophy after winning the return leg 1-0 in Saitama Stadium 2002 where the two sides will lock horns again in a week’s time.

AFC Media

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