Comeback win gives F·Marinos edge in AFC Champions League final

Comeback win gives F·Marinos edge in AFC Champions League final

Yokohama F·Marinos orchestrated a terrific comeback to beat Al Ain in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final, 2-1, and put the Tricolor in the driver’s seat for the continental championship.

Asahi Uenaka and Kota Watanabe were the heroes as both scored in the final 18 minutes to turn around a one-goal deficit and earn victory in Yokohama.

Al Ain went in front after just 12 minutes when Soufiane Rahimi's rebound fell to Mohammed Al Baloushi, who found the back of the net past F·Marinos goalkeeper William Popp.

The Tricolor responded well, putting the visitors from Abu Dhabi on their heels with several good opportunities, but Anderson Lopes, Uenaka and Takuya Kida were all turned away by Khalid Eisa in goal.

Chances were tougher to come by in the second half, but Yokohama's patience paid dividends in the 72nd minute.

Anderson Lopes dropped deep to pick up the ball before spraying it out wide to Yan Matheus, whose cross found Uenaka. The 22-year-old, whose two goals in the semi-final helped get F·Marinos to this stage, headed home and the Tricolor were level at 1-1.

A dozen minutes later, another Yan Matheus pass would unlock the staunch rearguard of Al Ain. The Brazilian lifted a ball to the back post again, where Ryo Miyaichi hit it on the full volley to the front of goal. That’s where Watanabe was waiting to redirect the ball into the back of the net. The flag went up for offside, but VAR overturned the decision, ruling Watanabe onside and granting the home side a precious 2-1 first-leg win.

That victory now sends the Tricolor to the United Arab Emirates for the second leg on May 25th. It's a slim advantage, but an advantage nonetheless, as this member of the J.League Original Ten stands just one match away from their first taste of continental glory.