Riyadh (AFP) – Andre Carrillo scored the only goal of the match as Saudi giants Al Hilal grabbed a thrilling victory over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the first leg of Saturday’s AFC Champions League final.
Peruvian Carrillo headed home off a Mohamed al-Burayk assist in the 60th minute in a fast-paced match which saw the defenders of both teams put up a stout display in front of a packed King Saud University Stadium.
The Saudi giants have endured a continental trophy drought since 2000 when they won the tournament for the second time, the first being in 1991 when it was called as the Asian Club Championship.
They came close in 2014 and 2017 when they reached the final, only to be beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers and Urawa respectively.
Al Hilal had the upper hand for most part of the match going close on several occasions, especially in the first half.
Daisuke Suzuki made a desperate save by deflecting the ball away from the goal off Sebastian Giovinco’s shot in the 14th minute and Takuya Aoki was lucky to narrowly clear the ball a few minutes later after goalkeeper Haruki Fukushima was beaten.
Urawa’s defence finally fell on the hour mark when goalkeeper Fukushima dropped his guard and failed to anticipate al-Burayk’s cross from the right to allow Carrillo to easily head home from the six-yard mark.
The hosts then cut out the risks by keeping the ball to themselves although Giovonco twice went close and substitute Nawaf al-Abed who was unlucky as he only found the side netting from close-range.
The second leg will be played in Saitama on November 24.
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