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Saitama: Urawa Red Diamonds will clash with Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia in the final of the 2017 AFC Champions League after they defeated China’s Shanghai SIPG 1-0 in their semi-final second leg on Wednesday night to secure a 2-1 aggregate win.

Rafael Silva’s 11th minute header decided a nail-biting tie at Saitama Stadium in Urawa’s favour, sending the Japanese side into their first continental final since they won the competition in 2007.

It was actually SIPG who had the first chance of the evening as they looked for a crucial away goal, but Wu Lei sent his header from a Hulk free-kick straight at Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa after seven minutes.

Rafael Silva was more accurate with his aerial attempt four minutes later, getting to Yosuke Kashiwagi’s out-swinging corner ahead of Odil Ahmedov and nodding home via the palm of Yan Junling.

That goal served to enliven the hosts, and they could have doubled their lead in the 17th minute if Yuki Muto had been a little more accurate with an unmarked header from close range after a whipped Wataru Endo cross from the right.

SIPG’s task hadn’t changed though and they knew a goal of their own would match Reds’ from the first leg in Shanghai and restore parity in the tie, and Hulk went close with a few sighters from range, including a free-kick that was tipped past the post by Nishikawa in the 24th minute.

The second half was an incredibly tense affair with no margin for error, and despite plenty of possession SIPG struggled to create any  clear-cut chances.

Urawa, on the other hand, went close on a couple of occasions - first as Tomoaki Makino headed another Kashiwagi corner onto the bar in the 56th minute and then as Yan tipped a Shinzo Koroki header over12 minutes later.

The closest SIPG went was with 12 minutes remaining when yet another Hulk attempt from distance skidded off the slippery surface, causing Nishikawa to spill the ball to Elkeson, but the ‘keeper reacted well to block the 2013 and 2015 champions' follow-up and ensure his side's safe passage.

Urawa will now travel to Riyadh for the first leg of the final against 2014 runners-up Al Hilal on November 18, before hosting the decisive second leg a week later, when they will hope to become the first Japanese side to win the AFC Champions League since Gamba Osaka in 2008.

 

Photos: Lagardère Sports