Riyadh: Fans at King Saud University Stadium were treated to a magnificent display of attacking football as Al Hilal SFC advanced to the 2019 AFC Champions League final with a 6-5 aggregate win over Al Sadd SC, despite losing the second leg 4-2 on home soil on Tuesday.
With the advantage of a three-goal lead from the first leg and a huge crowd behind them, Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal took the game to their opponents from the start, and within five minutes they had created their first big chance.
Preview - S-final 2nd Leg: Guangzhou Evergrande FC (CHN) vs Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN)
Guangzhou: A battle of two-time Continental champions is set to conclude on Wednesday when China PR's Guangzhou Evergrande host Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan, with the victors in with a chance to become the tournament's first three-time winners.
A 2-0 win for Urawa in the first leg in Saitama, courtesy of long-range strikes from Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine, give the J.League side the advantage going into the tie at Tianhe Stadium, but the hosts impressive record at their home fortress now numbers 21 matches unbeaten in the AFC Champions League.
Kuala Lumpur: Al Hilal and Urawa Red Diamonds will take commanding leads into the second legs of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals this week with Al Sadd and Guangzhou Evergrande needing to reverse first-leg deficits in order to progress to the final.
As things stand, Al Hilal hold a three-goal lead over Al Sadd ahead of their clash in Riyadh on Tuesday and Urawa take a two-goal advantage to southern China a day later. With the final line-up to be confirmed this week, here’s the-AFC.com’s five things to look out for.
Nishikawa warns Urawa to be prepared for Guangzhou
Guangzhou: Shusaku Nishikawa has told his Urawa Red Diamonds teammates they will need to be ready for anything when they take on Guangzhou Evergrande in the second leg of their 2019 AFC Champions League semi-final at Tianhe Stadium on Wednesday.
The 2007 and 2017 title winners hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg after goals from Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine at Saitama Stadium gave Tsuyoshi Otsuki’s side a healthy advantage, but Nishikawa knows that two-goal cushion might not be enough to take Urawa into final.
“Of course we have belief, but we know that the 2-0 scoreline is still a dangerous one,” the goalkeeper told the-AFC.com. “We're not sure what the atmosphere will be like away in Guangzhou so we have to make sure that we're fully prepared for this challenge.”
Guangzhou: Urawa Red Diamonds defender Tomoaki Makino admitted the pressure is on the Saitama side to see out Wednesday's semi-final second leg against Guangzhou Evergrande and ensure a third consecutive Japanese team reaches the AFC Champions League final.
In 2007, Urawa made history as the first J.League club to be crowned Continental kings since Asia's premier club tournament underwent a revamp in 2002-03 to become the AFC Champions League.
A decade later, Urawa repeated their efforts to join Wednesday's opponents Guangzhou, Korea Republic's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia as the only two-time winners of the AFC Champions League.
We have no other option but to attack, says Huang Bowen
Guangzhou: Midfielder Huang Bowen has insisted that Guangzhou Evergrande will throw caution to the wind on Wednesday in their bid to overturn the 2-0 deficit they face in the semi-final second leg against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Seven times Guangzhou have faced J.League opponents in the AFC Champions League knockout stage, and seven times it has been the southern Chinese side that has emerged victorious.
But at Tianhe Stadium on Wednesday, they face arguably their biggest test yet as they are up against an Urawa side that bring with them a 2-0 lead from the first leg.
A veteran of 12 AFC Champions League tournaments so far, and a winner in 2013 and 2015, Huang Bowen knows full well the challenge his side face.
Kuala Lumpur: When Bafetimbi Gomis bagged a brace in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-final against Al Sadd, not only did he make up for his earlier own goal en route to a 4-1 victory, he also moved joint top of the scoring charts.
Gomis and Leonardo – who has left Al Wahda to join Shabab Al Ahli since the Emirati side were eliminated – are tied with nine goals apiece, but with the Saudi team potentially having three more games to play, the Frenchman is the favourite to win the top scorer award come November 24.
But, while one more goal would see the Al Hilal target man take pole position, there remains a chasing pack who will have one eye on the accolade. Ahead of the semi-final second legs next week, the-AFC.com takes a closer look at the contenders.