Freak goal gives Reds the edge over Seoul

Doha (AFP) – Tomoya Ugajin’s freak goal gave Urawa Red Diamonds a 1-0 win over FC Seoul and boosted their chances of reaching the AFC Champions League quarter-finals in their Round of 16 first leg on Wednesday.

Ugajin was alone on the edge of the box when he received Ryota Moriwaki’s raking cross, and he looked as surprised as anyone when his hopeful volley looped unstoppably into the far corner.

It was an unexpected but welcome dose of good fortune for the 2007 champions from Japan, who will hope it is a good omen for next week’s return leg in the South Korean capital.

Ugajin’s cross-cum-shot carried shades of Dutch legend Marco van Basten’s stunner in the Euro 1988 final — apart from the huge dose of luck that put it into the net.

FC Seoul created plenty in reply but Brazilian striker Adriano, after scoring 10 in the group stage, was out of sorts and he ballooned a golden chance over the bar late in the first half.

Seoul goalkeeper Yu Sang-Hun saved sharply at the feet of Yosuke Kashiwagi early in the second period, before Osmar Barba blazed over at the other end on 67 minutes.

With two minutes left, Adriano had another chance to level the scores. But his shot was smothered and a pulsating game finished 1-0, to the delight of the vocal Saitama crowd.

FC Seoul reached the Asian final in 2013 and after their free-scoring romp through the group phase, they will be confident of making amends on home soil next week.

– Delicately poised –

Sydney FC’s first appearance in the knock-out stages ended in a 1-1 draw against Shandong Luneng, who fought back from behind after missing an early penalty.

After Vedran Janjetovic got down well to stop Walter Montillo’s spot-kick, Australia international David Carney nodded the visitors in front on the quarter-hour.

But the Chinese team, led by ex-Brazil coach Mano Menezes, came back firing. After Li Wei thundered a shot against the crossbar, Diego Tardelli equalised in the 57th minute.

The Brazilian forward half-volleyed a corner into the roof of the net for his sixth goal of the tournament to leave the tie delicately poised ahead of next week’s second leg.

Meanwhile in West Asia, Iran’s Zobahan snatched a 71st-minute equaliser against UAE giants Al Ain to acquit themselves well with a 1-1 draw in their first-leg clash. 

Hosts Al Ain had gone ahead in the ninth minute when Brazilian Dyanfres Douglas struck off an assist by Ismail Ahmed before Mohamedreza Abbasi’s header gave the Iranians a vital draw and a slender advantage going into the return leg next week. 

Al Ain were on the offensive from the outset with the Zobahan defence forced to make a couple of desperate early interventions, but the hosts were not to be denied for long when Douglas struck from three yards out after a Felipe Bastos cross from the right was steered into his path by Ahmed. 

Both teams saw a couple of chances go to waste before a moment of defensive confusion 14 minutes from the end saw Abbasi’s downward header cross the line to give the Iranians a boost.

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