x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Adelaide make AFC history

Adelaide United become the first Australian club to reach the Asian Champions League finals, progressing despite a 1-0 second leg loss to Bunyodkor.

Bunyodkor's Rivaldo, left, jumps for the ball with Adelaide's Fabian Barbiero.
Bunyodkor's Rivaldo, left, jumps for the ball with Adelaide's Fabian Barbiero.

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN // Adelaide United became the first Australian club to reach the Asian Champions League final, progressing 3-1 on aggregate over Bunyodkor despite a 1-0 loss today. Adelaide, who went into the match buoyed by a brilliant display in the first leg and a healthy a 3-0 cushion, advanced to the final where they will face Gamba Osaka of Japan, who beat the defending champions Urawa Red Diamonds 3-1 earlier today to progress 4-2 on aggregate.

A place in December's World Club World Cup is at stake in the finals of Asia's premier club tournament. Adelaide had the best defensive record in the competition ahead of the return semi-final, conceding only three goals in nine games, and had little trouble absorbing Bunyodkor's attack in the first half. Bunyodkor, the Uzbekistan league leaders who boast Rivaldo, a member of the 2002 Brazilian World Cup winning team in their ranks, enjoyed two-thirds of the possession but did not have a shot on goal before half-time.

Rivaldo gave better direction in midfield for the hosts in the second half after being heavily shackled in the first. The Adelaide goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic was forced into two good saves in the space of a minute. He tipped Server Djesparov's quick free kick around the post in the 54th minute and blocked Timur Kapadze's shot from close range from the resulting corner. Jasur Hasanov was causing trouble for the Adelaide defence on the left side and sending in cross after cross. The pressure was finally converted when substitute forward Bahodir Pardaev beat Galekovic with a right-foot shot from the edge of the box in the 78th minute.

Yasuhito Endo was the hero on the night for Gamba as he scored a goal and set up another as Gamba Osaka advanced to the final with a 3-1 comeback win over the Reds. Urawa secured a 1-1 draw in the first leg two weeks ago and went ahead 2-1 on aggregate when the former Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara scored in the first half. But Gamba took control after half-time with goals from Satoshi Yamaguchi, Tomokazu Miyojin and Endo.

"The Reds played well in the first half but we took control after the break," said the Gamba coach Akira Nishino. "Getting a goal early in the second half allowed us to change the pace of the game." Gamba will host the first leg of the finals on Nov 5 with the return match at Adelaide on Nov 12. *AP