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5 Memorable Semi-finals


Thursday, September 26, 2019
Al Ain-2003 ACL1-AFP

Kuala Lumpur: Ahead of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals, we reflect on five classic encounters from previous editions of the Continental competition.


Last minute winners, goal gluts and East-meet-West clashes, since the AFC Champions League's revamp in 2002-03, there have been plenty of thrills and spills when the tournament has reached the final four phase.

The-AFC.com looks back on some of these ties to remember and relive.

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2002-03 AFC Champions League: Dalian Shide vs Al Ain
First Leg: Al Ain 4-2 Dalian
Second Leg: Dalian 4-3 Al Ain

We start at the very first edition of the AFC Champions League, at the 2002-03 edition, to recall when eventual winners Al Ain and Dalian Shide played out a thriller in 2003.

The first leg on April 22 in Al Ain saw the hosts plunder an incredible four goals in just over 20 minutes after Hao Haidong’s opener for the visitors, although Li Yao's late strike saw the score finish 4-2.

Incredibly, the return meeting in August would see that scoreline bettered as the sides took it in terms breaching one another’s defence.

However, when Hao Haidong thought he had squared things up with a strike on 84 minutes to make it 6-6 on aggregate, there was still time for a winner as Iranian Farhad Majidi was on target with three minutes remaining to see the Emiratis through to the inaugural final which they would go on to win.


2008 AFC Champions League: Gamba Osaka vs Urawa Red Diamonds
First Leg: Gamba Osaka 1-1 Urawa Red Diamonds
Second Leg: Urawa Red Diamonds 1-3 Gamba Osaka

A series of matches that Japan legend Yasuhito Endo named his favourite ever in the AFC Champions League, the clash between J.League rivals Gamba Osaka and Urawa Reds was a memorable affair.

At Expo '70 Commemorative Stadium, defending champions Urawa drew first blood when Hajime Hosogai fired home, but a late penalty from Endo with nine minutes remaining tied things up.

With an away goal and over 53,000 fans in support, the holders would have been confident of a result going into the return leg at Saitama Stadium 2002, with Naohiro Takahara's 36th-minute opener only increasing morale.

But after half-time it was Gamba who came roaring back. Captain Satoshi Yamaguchi fired home on 51 minutes to level things up and, in a dramatic four-minute spell, Tomokazu Myojin and Endo both scored to turn the tie on its head and see Gamba into the final.


2013 AFC Champions League: FC Seoul vs Esteghlal
First Leg: FC Seoul 2-0 Esteghlal
Second Leg: Esteghlal 2-2 FC Seoul

The meeting between Esteghlal and FC Seoul is one that will live long in the memory for a number of reasons.

The 88,000-plus crowd at Azadi Stadium in the second leg in Tehran, the drama of Esteghal's second half comeback that threatened an improbable turnaround from three goals down, and FC Seoul's progress to their first AFC Champions League Final.

However, more than that, it will be remembered for three touches by Ha Dae-sung.

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🤫 That's one way to silence 8⃣8⃣,0⃣0⃣0⃣➕ people! . 🧙‍♂️ Ha Dae-sung with 3⃣ touches of magic at the 2013 Semi-Finals. . #GoalOfTheDay | #ACL

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Goals from Dejan Damjanovic and Go Yo-han had given FC Seoul a lead from the first leg in the Korea Republic capital, but the goal that will be remembered will be the one that opened the second leg.

With eight minutes to half-time in Tehran, a corner-kick was cleared as far as midfielder Ha Dae-sung who plucked the ball out of the air, killing it instantly and bringing it onto his left in one fluid motion.

One more touch to set himself and then a sublime chip to beat Mahdi Rahmati in the Esteghlal goal. A truly magical moment of AFC Champions League history.


2015 AFC Champions League: Al Ahli vs Al Hilal
First Leg: Al Hilal 1-1 Al Ahli
Second Leg: Al Ahli 3-2 Al Hilal

One to forget for Al Hilal fans, the 2015 semi-final against the UAE's Al Ahli remains a bitter pill to swallow for the Riyadh giants.

Having drawn 1-1 at the King Fahd International Stadium, Al Hilal were in confident mood going into the decider in Dubai.

A pair of goals from Rodrigo Lima and Everton Ribeiro cleared them of any ideas of an easy ride, but equalisers from Ailton and Carlos Eduardo put the Saudis ahead on away goals.

With time ticking down and the match into injury time, Al Ahli tried one last throw of the dice.

A free-kick was lofted into the area and the ball ricocheted to Kwon Kyung-won who fired home to earn the Emiratis a first-ever trip to the final of the AFC Champions League and break Al Hilal hearts.


2018 AFC Champions League: Kashima Antlers vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings
First Leg: Kashima Antlers 3-2 Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Second Leg: Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-3 Kashima Antlers

A goal-fest in last year's clash between these two sides from Japan and Korea Republic, with fans treated to 11 goals over the two legs.

It began at a furious pace, too, with visitors Suwon taking a shock two goal lead after just six minutes courtesy of an own goal by Atsuto Uchida and a Dejan Damjanovic strike.

An own-goal by Jang Ho-ik at the other end gave Kashima hope and within the final six minutes they had completed their comeback courtesy of goals from Serginho and Uchida; the latter completing his arc from villain to hero.

2nd Leg: Suwon Samsung Bluewings v Kashima Antlers

The second leg at Suwon World Cup Stadium began less explosively, but Shuto Yamamoto did put Kashima in the driving seat with a goal in the 25th minute to give the J.Leaguers a 4-2 aggregate lead.

The hosts responded in a wild eight minute spell in the second half with three goals to put themselves ahead, but just four minutes after their third of the night Daigo Nishi fired back to make it 5-5 on aggregate.

Both sides tried to re-take the lead, but with eight minutes remaining it was Serginho who fired home the winner, sending Kashima into the final.

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