Asia AFC Champions League

Superb Hanoi Dump Defending Champions Urawa Out of ACL

Urawa Red Diamonds’ reign as defending AFC Champions League winners went crashing down on Wednesday after the Japanese giants succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away at Hanoi FC, which ensures that the Reds were unable to qualify into the knockouts as one of the three best runners-up of the East Zone.

Maciej Skorza’s Urawa side traveled to the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi knowing that only a win could keep their chances for the knockouts alive, and the defending ACL champs saw themselves getting an early advantage in the 10th minute after a Dao Van Nam handball led to a penalty being awarded to Urawa.

However, Hanoi goalkeeper Nguyen Van Hoang – who unusually wore the number 5 shirt despite his position – made an excellent save to deny Alexander Scholz from the spot.

The defending champs set up their camp in the Hanoi half, but faced with the Captial Team fortifying the penalty area with their defenders, Urawa encountered difficulties in breaking through. Hanoi posed minimal threat in their offensive plays, and it wasn’t until 12 minutes before halftime that Urawa managed to seemingly found the way past the stubborn Hanoi defense. Scholz’s precise pass set up Kaito Yasui, yet Van Hoang’s quick save to his right maintained parity.

Yasui missed the target from a distance nine minutes later, and Bryan Linssen’s weak attempt shortly after rolled harmlessly to the goalkeeper, resulting in Urawa’s failure to secure a breakthrough. Despite Urawa’s attempt to increase the pressure, Alex Schalk blasted his shot over the bar four minutes into the second half. Unexpectedly, it was Hanoi who seized the lead.

In the 53rd minute, Van Nam reacted swiftly to head in from close range after Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa saved Damien Le Tallac’s header following Nguyen Hai Long’s left-corner delivery. Linssen leveled the score in the 65th minute, guiding his first-time shot through Van Hoang’s legs from close range as he connected with Takuya Ogiwara’s bending pass from the right.

Substitute Jose Kante’s header was thwarted by Van Hoang, but as the Reds grew increasingly desperate, the tide turned in Hanoi’s favor. Ogiwara brought down Hai Long inside the area, and Tuan Hai calmly slotted in the penalty past Nishikawa, securing a memorable victory for Hanoi as they left the ACL with their heads held up high.