October 23, 2019 / 3:16 PM / 20 days ago

Soccer-Koroki header eases Urawa into Asian Champions League final

GUANGZHOU, China, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Urawa Red Diamonds will face Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the Asian Champions League final after Shinzo Koroki’s second-half header earned the Japanese side a 1-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday and a 3-0 aggregate victory.

Koroki’s 50th-minute goal ensured Urawa advanced to the final having gone into the second leg at Guangzhou’s Tianhe Stadium with a two-goal advantage from the first game in Japan.

“I’m so happy to advance to the final,” said Urawa head coach Tsuyoshi Otsuki.

“I’m proud of our players. They put on a good performance and we will try our best to do even better in the final.”

Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro fielded an attacking line-up as he sought to find a way back into the tie and former Benfica striker Anderson Talisca tormented the Urawa defence without reward.

The Brazilian went closest to opening the scoring eight minutes before the break when his shot on the turn cannoned back off goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa’s right post on a frustrating night for the home side.

Evergrande were on top for much of the game but fell victim to a sucker punch from Urawa when Koroki rose to head in Daiki Hashioka’s cross from the right, sending the travelling fans into raptures.

Needing to score four times to reach their third Asian Champions League final, Guangzhou were deflated by Koroki’s goal and, although Talisca and former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho went close, Urawa were rarely troubled.

“Today we showed our spirit and strong heart,” said Italian Cannavaro.

“Maybe we don’t have the chance to be the winners of the Asian Champions League but, no matter what anyone else says, our players have done a very good job.”

Urawa will take on Al Hilal after the Saudi side defeated Qatar’s Al Sadd 6-5 on aggregate in their semi-final on Tuesday.

Al Hilal will host the first leg in Riyadh on Nov. 9 with the return at Saitama Stadium in Japan on Nov. 24. (Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Ed Osmond)

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