GUANGZHOU, CHINA – Shinzo Koroki struck early in the second half Wednesday as the Urawa Reds advanced to their second Asian Champions League final in three years with a 3-0 aggregate win over Guangzhou Evergrande.
The gutsy 1-0 victory at Tianhe Stadium came three weeks after the Reds won the opening leg 2-0 at Saitama Stadium thanks to goals from Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine.
Having played most of the first half in Guangzhou on the back foot, the 2017 champions scored a pivotal away goal five minutes after the break when Koroki met a Daiki Hashioka cross in the air to head home from close range.
Needing to overcome the 2-0 deficit from the first leg, Fabio Cannavaro’s side had opted for an all-out attack from the outset of the second leg on home soil.
Spearheaded by Brazilian attackers Elkersen and Anderson Talisca, the seven-time Chinese Super League winners quickly put the Urawa defense under pressure and forced a number of early saves from goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
But a determined defensive effort, including a standout performance from the 33-year-old Nishikawa, saw the visitors finish with a clean sheet despite Guangzhou dominating the final shot tally 19-5.
Saudi side Al-Hilal await Urawa in the two-leg final to determine the 2019 Asian champions.
Winning the continental championship would be a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season for Tsuyoshi Otsuki’s men, who have struggled domestically and currently sit 12th in the J. League first division.