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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Urawa Red Diamonds defeat Shanghai SIPG to set up Asian Champions League final date with Al Hilal

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg in China, the Japanese side edged the reverse fixture thanks to Rafael Silva's goal. 

Rafael Da Silva, left, celebrates with his Urawa Red Diamonds teammates after scoring the decisive goal against Shanghai SIPG. Toru Yamanaka / AFP
Rafael Da Silva, left, celebrates with his Urawa Red Diamonds teammates after scoring the decisive goal against Shanghai SIPG. Toru Yamanaka / AFP

Urawa Red Diamonds defeated Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday to book their spot in the Asian Champions League final - and move a step closer to competing in December’s Fifa Club World Cup in the UAE.

Brazilian forward Rafael Silva scored the all-important goal at the Saitama Stadium, as the Japanese J-League side triumphed 1-0 in the second leg to prevail 2-1 on aggregate.

Urawa now face Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal across two legs next month to be crowned continental champions, with the winner then taking their place in the Club World Cup.

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Asian champions in 2007, Urawa went into the second leg in Japan in a slightly better position following their hard-fought draw in the first leg two weeks ago. However, big-spending Shanghai represent formidable foes and boast players of the calibre of Brazilian pair Oscar and Hulk. They are managed by former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas Boas.

Urawa began the game on the front foot and their aggression paid off quickly, when Silva put the hosts ahead in the 11th minute. The frontman, in his first year with the club, glanced a header past Yan Junling in the Shanghai goal.

Urawa pushed forward for another, and almost doubled their lead on the night but for Yuki Muto heading wide. At the other end, Hulk crossed to the unmarked Odil Ahmedov, only for the Uzbek to head straight at goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa. By then, Shanghai required two goals to advance.

Urawa looked the most likely to score in the second half, though, when defender Tomoaki Makino thumped the crossbar with a header. Shanghai did threaten thereafter as they searched for a way back into the tie, with Hulk having a low shot parried. Not long after Elkeson, scorer of the winner in the 2015 final for Guangzhou Evergrande against Dubai’s Al Ahli, had an effort blocked.

Urawa held on to seal a place in a second final, with Hilal standing between them and the title. In their semi-final, the Riyadh club defeated Iran’s Persepolis 6-2 on aggregate.

Whoever wins next month - the matches will be played November 18 and 25 - will take their place in the Club World Cup, staged in the UAE from December 6-16. The Asian champions join the seven-team tournament at the quarter-final stage, and will play either host representatives Al Jazira or New Zealand’s Auckland City in Abu Dhabi on December 9.

The winner of that clash goes on to meet European champions Real Madrid in the last four. Madrid are the Club World Cup’s defending champions having last year won the event for a second time. Urawa finished third in the 2007 tournament.

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