Asia AFC Champions League

Al-Dawsari Sees Red as Al-Hilal and Urawa Reds Share the Spoils

J.League 1 side Urawa Red Diamonds have gotten themselves an advantage after they had played out a 1-1 draw away at Saudi giants Al-Hilal in the first leg of the 2022 AFC Champions League final on Saturday night. Defending champions Al-Hilal had to finish the match with 10 men after Salem Al-Dawsari was sent-off in the 86th minute, rendering him unavailable for May 6th’s second leg.

With a lengthy gap between Saturday’s final and Urawa’s semifinal triumph over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors back in August of last year, the Japanese side fielded a virtually unrecognized starting eleven compared to their usual one that they’ve used in their ACL campaign. For starters, gaffer Ricardo Rodriguez has been replaced by Maciej Skorza, while Urawa’s top scorers in the 2022 ACL – Yusuke Matsuo and Kaspar Junker – has been loaned out to Westerlo in Belgium and Nagoya Grampus respectively.

Playing in front of their faithful supporters at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Al-Hilal took the lead in the 13th minute. Michael Delgado sent a cross into the Urawa defense, which was received by Al-Dawsari. Ever the player for such big occasions, Al-Dawsari blasted home a left-footed shot into the top corner of Shusaku Nishikawa’s goal.

Al-Dawsari then almost doubled Al-Hilal’s lead in the 25th minute, only for the Saudi international to fumble an excellent chance provided to him by Odion Ighalo.

A mistake from Ali Al-Bulaihi allowed Urawa to restore parity in the 53rd minute. A long ball was deflected by the defender towards Abdullah Al-Mayouf’s goal, going off the post before being lapped up by veteran striker Shinzo Koroki, who blasted home the equalizer.

Nishikawa saved a Michael header in the 60th minute before Moussa Marega fired wide six minutes later as Al-Hilal desperately tried to regain their lead, however disaster struck the hosts four minutes before full-time after Al-Dawsari was shown a straight red card after he had kicked Ken Iwao in the stomach after the Urawa player had pulled him down to the ground.

With influential midfielder Al-Dawsari suspended and with an away goal to their name, Urawa would surely relish the chance of locking their third ACL title in May 6th’s second leg at the Saitama Stadium 2002.