Urawa Reds 1 Shanghai SIPG 0 (2-1 agg): Rafael Silva books Al Hilal decider
A showdown with Al Hilal awaits Urawa Reds after their 2-1 aggregate victory over Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League semi-finals.
Urawa Reds defeated Shanghai SIPG 1-0 on Wednesday to seal a 2-1 aggregate victory and book a meeting with Al Hilal in the AFC Champions League final.
Rafael Silva’s headed goal from a corner in the 11th minute of the semi-final second leg at Saitama Stadium 2002 proved to be the only goal of a tight contest.
J.League side Urawa will be aiming to capture their second AFC Champions League crown, having not reached the final since winning the competition in 2007.
Their opponents will be two-time Asian title-holders Al Hilal, who saw off Persepolis 6-2 on aggregate a day earlier to progress to a second decider in the last four years.
The visitors enjoyed the first clear sight of goal after six minutes, Wu Lei heading Hulk’s free-kick down and into the hands of Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
Shanghai had been making most of the early running but it was the hosts who struck first, Rafael Silva climbing to head home Yosuke Kashiwagi’s in-swinging corner in the 11th minute.
The goal sparked a period of Urawa dominance, Kashiwagi narrowly failing to get a clear shot away at close range following a slick counterattack little more than 60 seconds after the opener.
Five minutes later it was Yuki Muto’s turn to go close, the attacker found unmarked in the centre of the box by Wataru Endo’s cross, only to nod his effort wide of far post.
Shanghai weathered that period of pressure to finish the half strongly, Hulk testing Nishikawa with a free-kick from long range and then setting up Odil Ahmedov, who saw his shot from the top of the penalty area saved with four minutes left on the clock.
A tense second half produced few clear-cut chances, Tomoaki Makino narrowly failing to double Urawa’s lead by heading against the bar from a corner in the 55th minute.
Shinzo Koroki also went close with a header of his own in the 68th minute, climbing above the Shanghai defence to draw a good save from Yan Junling.
Ultimately, though, Rafael Silva’s intervention proved decisive, as attention turns to next month’s two-legged final.