HONG KONG (Reuters) - Rafael da Silva’s early strike will see Urawa Red Diamonds take a vital away goal into the second leg of the Asian Champions League final next week after the Japanese side shared a 1-1 draw with Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in Riyadh on Saturday.
Da Silva put Urawa in front in the seventh minute of the match before Syrian striker Omar Khribin claimed his 10th goal of the competition to level eight minutes before half-time.
The two teams will meet again in Japan next Saturday, with Urawa seeking to win the title for the first time since 2007, while Al Hilal are attempting to claim their first continental crown since 2000.
The opening goal came when Da Silva outpaced right back Mohammed Al Burayk on the outside and, after the Al Hilal defence failed to clear, the 25-year-old rolled the ball into the back of the net.
Al Hilal had dominated proceedings in the King Fahd International Stadium prior to the goal and the same pattern continued after as the hosts put the visiting defence under increasing pressure.
Khribin, who was nominated for the Asian Player of the Year Award earlier in the day, twice saw Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa deny him from close range before the Syrian finally equalised by pouncing on a loose ball.
It was no less than Al Hilal deserved, and they almost took the lead in first half stoppage time, only for Yasir Al Shahrani to steer Khribin’s headed knock down harmlessly across the face of goal.
Al Hilal continued to press for a second with Nicolas Milesi and Khribin both inches away from putting their side in front in the first five minutes of the second period.
Urawa, however, rode out the storm and will take the away goal into the second leg, which will be played at Saitama Stadium outside Tokyo on Nov. 25.
Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Christian Radnedge