Soccer: Urawa Reds book Asian Champions League final slot after Silva header
By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Urawa Red Diamonds will take on Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia in the final of the Asian Champions League next month, after a goal from Rafael Silva earned the Japanese side a 2-1 aggregate win over China's Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday.
Silva scored 11 minutes into the second leg at Saitama Stadium after the teams had shared a 1-1 draw in their first meeting in Shanghai. It's the first time Urawa will feature in a Champions league final since winning the title in 2007.
"Before the match we knew that we couldn't concede any goals in this game and we told ourselves that we shouldn't be intimidated by our opponent," said Urawa captain Yuki Abe.
"I'm very happy we scored first and we didn't concede any goals. We worked well together.
"It's been 10 years since the last time we were in the final. Until now our focus has all been on SIPG, but we will think about the final now."
Silva's header from Yosuke Kashiwagi's corner put Urawa in front before an impressive rearguard action from Takafumi Hori's men saw off the big spending Chinese Super League club.
While Brazilian Hulk shone throughout for Andre Villas-Boas' side, Oscar - acquired from Chelsea in January for 60 million euros ($70.7 million) - was peripheral for much of the game as SIPG missed out on the continental prize for the second season in a row.
Tomoaki Makino could have doubled Urawa's lead just before the hour mark, only for his header to clip the crossbar.
At the other end, goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa pulled off a fine double save late in the game to deny Hulk's long-range drive before blocking Elkeson's attempt to net the rebound.
"Today we had a mistake when we were defending at a corner and our advantage in possession wasn't being converted into shots," said Villas-Boas.
"However, our players have tried their best. I appreciate their effort."
Al Hilal confirmed their place in the final with Syrian striker Omar Kharbin scoring twice as the Saudi Arabian club were held to a 2-2 draw by Iran's Persepolis, but advanced with a 6-2 aggregate win.
Ramon Diaz's side had one foot in the final following an impressive first leg showing but Godwin Mensha gave Persepolis a glimmer of hope 16 minutes into the game, before Kharbin struck from the penalty spot to effectively kill the tie.
Mensha scored again in the second half before a second from Kharbin ensured Al Hilal would go into the two-leg final on Nov. 18 and 25 with their unbeaten record intact.
($1 = 0.8490 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Christian Radnedge)