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Great quarter-final comebacks 

Saturday, September 8, 2018
Urawa v Kawasaki 2017 ACL QF

Kuala Lumpur: Winning a first leg does not always mean a straight route to the next round, and the AFC Champions League quarter-finals have seen some memorable comebacks over the years.

The first leg of the 2018 AFC Champions League quarter-finals produced two wins for the home sides and as many for visitors. But the competition's history shows the four winners there can be no room for complacency following a first leg victory.

The quarter-finals were introduced in the AFC Champions League back in 2004, and since then we have witnessed some iconic returns after disappointing first leg ties, recalls three extraordinary comebacks ahead of the second legs.

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Al Ittihad vs Al Karamah (2006)

After finishing top of their group, Syria's Al Karamah traveled to Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium in Jeddah to face the two-time reigning champions Al Ittihad in the first leg of the quarter-finals.

Goals from Jared Borgetti and Alhassane Keita gave Ittihad a convincing 2-0 victory at home, offering Al Karamah a daunting task at the Khalid bin Al Walid Stadium a week later.

In the first half, Iyad Mnado's looping header into the top corner halved the deficit, and his effort after the restart bounced off the crossbar for Ahmad Omaier, who added the second to level the aggregate score.

The game was pushed to extra-time and substitute Mohannad Ibrahim stole the show, firing two goals for the Syrians, gifting them a historic qualification to the semi-finals. Al Karamh would go on to reach the final, but lose to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Bunyodkor vs Pohang Steelers (2009)

The Uzbek team hosted the first leg and despite No Byung-jun pulling an early goal for Pohang Steelers, Victor Karpenko's screamer and Server Djeparov's brace handed the home side a vital 3-1 victory.

In the return fixture, Bunyodkor's resolute defending helped them carry their 3-1 aggregate lead into the half-time break. However, the tables were turned in the second half as Kim Jae-sung scored immediately after the restart.


Later on, Brazilian forward Denilson netted a double, putting the Korean side in the driver's seat, before another Karpenko long-range effort brought the tie level in the dying seconds.

Stevo Ristic was the savior for Pohang Steelers as he rose above Bunyodkor defenders and goalkeeper in extra time to head home the decisive goal that would take his team through to the semi-finals. The Koreans would go on to lift the 2009 trophy.

Kawasaki Frontale vs Urawa Red Diamonds (2017)

Last year, Urawa Red Diamonds were crowned AFC Champions League winners for the second time in their history, yet one game drained them even more than the final; that against fellow Japanese side Kawasaki Frontale in the quarter-finals.

The first leg ended in a 3-1 home win at Kawasaki's Todoroki Athletics Stadium as a goal from Elsinho and a brace from Yu Kobayashi muted Yuki Muto's strike for Urawa.

In their second clash, Elsinho found the target early in the game to further complicate Urawa's situation, but it was not all over as the Saitama-based side were determined to perform a miracle.

Shinzo Koroki's goal took Urawa into the half-time break level on the night, and they produced three goals in the final 20 minutes through Zlatan Ljubijankic, Rafael Silva and Toshiyuki Takagi to achieve the comeback that would fuel them to go all the way and lift the trophy.

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