NAGOYA – Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad moved into the Asian Champions League final Wednesday with a 2-1 win away against Nagoya Grampus in the second leg of the semifinals.
Two-time champions Al Ittihad went through 8-3 on aggregate and will meet the winner of a later semifinal between Umm Salal of Qatar and South Korea’s Pohang Steelers. Pohang hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg.
The final will be held at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Nov. 7, with the winners clinching a spot at the World Club Cup in Abu Dhabi in December.
Nagoya were left with a mountain to climb after a 6-2 defeat in Jeddah last week, but the home side enjoyed the better of the first half and nearly opened the scoring when Australian striker Josh Kennedy headed against the crossbar.
However, the Saudis dealt Nagoya a knockout blow shortly before the interval when Saleh Al Saqri struck after Toru Hasegawa could only parry Mohammed Noor’s flick.
Amine Chermiti added a second for the visitors and although substitute Keita Sugimoto pulled one back with a spectacular overhead kick, it was scant consolation for Dragan Stojkovic’s men, who were aiming to become the third Japanese club in a row to win Asia’s premier club competition.
“I think we made a good game and had a good mentality,” said Stojkovic. “Unfortunately we lost but I am very satisfied with the behavior of my players today.”
“This is the maximum of Grampus. To be in the best four, it is a really good result.”
Ishikawa’s year over
Japan midfielder Naohiro Ishikawa will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus damage in his left knee, FC Tokyo said Wednesday.
The 28-year-old Ishikawa, who underwent endoscopic surgery on the knee in Saitama the same day, will be hospitalized for about a week and will need six weeks to make a full recovery.