Soccer

Urawa defeats Guangzhou to reach Asian Champions League final

Kyodo

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.

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