Asia AFC Champions League

Own Goal Clinches Urawa Their Third ACL Title

An own-goal from Andre Carillo seals Urawa Red Diamonds their third AFC Champions League title on Saturday night, as a 1-0 second leg win over defending champions Al-Hilal at the Saitama Stadium 2002 ensures a 2-1 aggregate win following a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

The 2022 ACL final was evenly-poised after April 30th’s first leg in Riyadh, however Urawa had three advantages coming into the second leg – playing in front of their own support at the Saitama Stadium 2002, an away goal to their name, and the absence of Al-Hilal’s talisman Salem Al-Dawsari following his sending off in the first leg.

Despite those three advantages, it was Al-Hilal who came out on top throughout the first leg, with Urawa having both Alexander Scholz and goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa to thank as the duo denied the defending champions’ aces in Odion Ighalo, Michael Delgado and Carillo.

The hosts also had their fair share of chances throughout the first half, though, with Shinzo Koroki coming in the closest after he had struck a Hiroki Sakai cross into the crossbar.

Three minutes into the second half, Urawa had the breakthrough that they’ve been waiting for. A free-kick from Urawa’s Norwegian defender Marius Hoibraten was deflected into Abdullah Al-Mayouf’s goal by Carillo, prompting wild celebrations from the good majority of the 53,574 fans at the Saitama Stadium.

Urawa then pushed forward as they seek to secure their lead even further, with both Tomoaki Okubo and Atsuki Ito coming close to doubling the hosts’ advantage.

Nishikawa then performed an excellent save to deny Ighalo in the 90th minute as Urawa hung on for their third ACL title, the Reds’ first continental title since 2017 and Japan’s first ACL glory since Kashima Antlers’ triumph in 2018.

As defending ACL champions, Urawa, who finished 9th in the 2022 J.League 1 season and who were knocked out in the 2022 Emperor’s Cup third round, were given the right to participate in the 2023 season at the expense of last season’s J1 bronze medalists Sanfrecce Hiroshima, with Urawa taking over their spot in the qualifying play-offs.