Urawa are kings of Asia again after beating Al Hilal to win third AFC Champions League

Urawa are kings of Asia again after beating Al Hilal to win third AFC Champions League

Urawa Reds have conquered the continent once again, winning a third AFC Champions League crown!

The boys from Saitama beat defending champions Al Hilal 1-0 in the second leg of the final to win 2-1 on aggregate and lift Asia’s most coveted trophy in front of more than 53,000 adoring fans.

Urawa entered the match in good position after drawing 1-1 in the first leg. With an even scoreline and an away goal coming back from Saudi Arabia, they simply needed to take care of business at home to become champions.

The Reds carried a massive advantage in the second, which was evident long before kick off at Saitama Stadium 2002. The Urawa faithful had packed the stadium in red, waving flags and singing in full voice during warmups and only turning up the noise as the players walked onto the pitch to provide the stupendous setting that a continental final deserves.

The experienced Al Hilal were not fazed by the amazing Urawa crowd and were on the front foot from the beginning. Michael and André Carrillo each had good shots, but Shusaku Nishikawa was excellent in turning them away to keep the match scoreless.

Urawa slowly played their way into the match and even came closest to scoring in the first half when Hiroki Sakai hit a great cross to an onrushing Shinzo Koroki, who met it on the full volley, but smashed it off the crossbar.

Mere minutes after the second half began, Urawa got themselves on the scoreboard. Marius Høibråten headed a long free kick towards goal, where Carillo tried to intervene, but put it into his own net for a Reds goal.

The stadium exploded and the Reds celebrated in the corner with the whole bench running in to join the fun. Suddenly, Urawa had themselves a lead and the Champions League title was within reach.

Urawa were not content to protect their lead and continued to push forward, with Atsuki Ito nearly scoring on a blistering shot from distance that just missed wide.

Al Hilal made one last late push and got their star striker Odion Ighalo a great chance from 15 yards, but Nishikawa was up to the task once again. He parried away Ighalo’s well struck shot and Urawa were on their way to victory.

When the referee blew the final whistle, a roar erupted across the stadium and the Reds players streamed off the bench to celebrate their triumph. Urawa had celebrated Asian titles at Saitama Stadium 2002 in 2007 and 2017, and now they did so again in 2023 as the first-ever Japanese club to conquer Asia twice added a third continental crown to their stable.

When the Reds raised the trophy, confetting rained down upon them, as did the adulation of their adoring fans. The party was on for the three-time champions.