Round of 16 - 1st Leg: Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN) 1-2 Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR)
Saitama: Ulsan Hyundai came back from going a goal behind to defeat Urawa Red Diamonds 2-1 on Wednesday as the 2012 winners claimed a first leg lead in the teams’ 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 meeting at Saitama Stadium.
Hwang Il-su came off the bench to bury a late winner to hand Ulsan not only the win but two crucial away goals ahead of next week’s tie in Korea Republic. Kenyu Sugimoto opened his AFC Champions League account in the first half before Joo Min-kyu restored parity ahead of the intermission.
The game pitted the two former winners of the tournament against one another for the first time in the AFC Champions League, which could be considered surprising given the frequent appearance of the clubs on this stage.
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Urawa, champions in 2007 and 2017, played their first match of the competition under new boss Tsuyoshi Otsuki, who replaced Oswaldo Oliveira on May 29 after the Brazilian was sacked due to a string of poor results in the J.League.
The game unfolded at a pedestrian pace until the 37th minute, when Reds managed to open the scoring through Sugimoto, who was making his first start of the 2019 campaign and had featured for just 20 minutes prior to Wednesday.
Takuya Aoki set the wheels in motion by lobbing the ball into the box for Sugimoto, who just managed to get on the end of it to push the hosts in front.
Urawa’s lead, however, proved to be short-lived as Ulsan equalised in the 42nd minute. Lee Keun-ho charged up the left wing before picking out Joo on the far side of the area. Joo rose high to catch Shusaku Nishikawa off his line, heading into the net to allow the visitors to go into the break level.
The intensity picked up in the second half as both sides sought a decisive second and it was the K-League giants who grabbed the edge.
Ulsan dominated Urawa in transition all night and made Reds pay 10 minutes from time, when Hwang, who replaced Joo on the hour, hit past the outstretched arms of Nishikawa with authority to give his team the victory.
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