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ACL Final: 5 Great 2nd Legs

Saitama: The second leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League final is now just a day away, with hosts Urawa Red Diamonds needing to overhaul a 1-0 deficit against Al Hilal if they are to lift the title for an unprecedented third time. 

In 16 previous finals, history shows that the team that loses the first leg tends not to be crowned champions. Only Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad have managed the feat and that was back in 2004.

That does not, however, mean there haven’t been some classic encounters over the years and has picked out five to whet your appetite ahead of Sunday’s game at Saitama Stadium.

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1. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (KOR) vs Al Ittihad (KSA)
(Seongnam Stadium, December 2004)

Late goals from Kim Do-hoon and Jang Hak-young secured a convincing 3-1 first-leg victory for Seongnam at Jeddah’s PAF Stadium to make them red-hot favourites to win the 2004 title, but what happened next shocked the Continent.

The game was still goalless with the half hour approaching when Redha Takar headed home after a corner from the right to give the visitors a glimmer of hope, before Hamzah Idris piled the pressure on Seongnam by doubling their advantage in first-half stoppage time.

Mohammed Noor finished at the back post to put Al Ittihad in the driving seat in the 56th minute, then the captain all but finished the tie by slotting in his second with 12 minutes to play.

With the game deep into added time, Manaf Aboshgair put the icing on the cake to seal a stunning 5-0 win and the 6-3 aggregate scoreline remains the most remarkable turnaround the competition has ever seen.

2. Al Karamah (SYR) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)
(Khaled Ibn Al Waleed Stadium, November 2006)

Syrian champions Al Karamah had caused a stir in reaching the 2006 final by eliminating, among others, the two-time defending champions Al Ittihad along the way.

But, having lost the first leg of the showpiece event 2-0 away at Jeonbuk, they faced a mountain to climb in Homs, where 40,000 fans turned up to roar their side on to an unlikely comeback.

Things were looking good for the visitors at half-time but quick-fire goals from Eyad Mando and Mohanad Al Ibrahim before the hour sent the crowd into raptures as the dream suddenly became a reality.

It was not to be, however, as Brazilian Ze Carlos broke Syrian hearts when he headed in from close range with two minutes to play as, for the first time, the AFC Champions League title went to East Asia.

3. Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) vs FC Seoul (KOR)
(Tianhe Stadium, November 2013)

Between the years of 2009 and 2012, the title had thrice been won by Korean teams as the competition switched to a one-legged final, before it returned to a two-legged affair in 2013.

FC Seoul were aiming to become the next side from Korea Republic to be crowned champions but faced rising Chinese force Guangzhou Evergrande in the final.


After a 2-2 draw in the Korean capital, the stage was set in Guangzhou, where Elkeson put the hosts in front in the 58th minute after an exquisite first touch and composed finish.

Dejan Damjanovic equalised for the visitors soon after but Guangzhou held on for the last 30 minutes to become China’s first-ever AFC Champions League winners.

4. Al Hilal (KSA) vs Western Sydney Wanderers (AUS)
(King Fahd International Stadium, November 2014)

Boasting six Asian titles to their name, Al Hilal were strong favourites ahead of the 2014 final, where they faced tournament debutants Western Sydney Wanderers. But a 1-0 first-leg victory for the Australians left the tie intriguingly poised ahead of the return meeting in Riyadh.

Al Hilal’s target was to become the second team from Saudi Arabia to win the AFC Champions League after Jeddah rivals Al Ittihad and, to this day, it’s hard to believe they didn’t.

Wave after wave of Al Hilal attacks saw Western Sydney under almost constant pressure, with Yasser Al Qahtani guilty of missing several chances and goalkeeper Ante Covic pulling off some stunning saves to deny the Saudis.

Somehow, the game remained goalless and to the disbelief of the Al Hilal faithful, Western Sydney Wanderers held out to be crowned champions of Asia.

5. Al Ain (UAE) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)
(Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, November 2016)

The 2016 final saw two teams aiming to become Continental champions for the second time and it was Jeonbuk who started the second leg in the driving seat after Leonardo’s brace had earlier secured a 2-1 victory on Jeonju.

Han kyo-won volleyed Jeonbuk in front on the half hour but Korea Republic international Lee Myung-joo levelled soon after to leave the inaugural winners needing just a goal to restore parity and plenty of time to find it.

And the hosts were given the perfect opportunity as half-time approached when Danilo Asprilla was brought down and the referee pointed to the spot, only for Brazilian striker Douglas to fire the ensuing penalty well over the crossbar.

Douglas and substitute Ibrahim Diaky had the best of the chances after the interval, but the would-be 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman and his teammates were left to reflect on what might have been as Jeonbuk claimed their second AFC Champions League title.

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