Advantage Urawa Reds midway through the ACL final

Due to some technical issues I missed the opening ten minutes of the ACL Final first leg and when I finally had the match playing Urawa had already found a surprising breakthrough and a crucial goal through Rafael Silva tucking a rebound away to put their hosts in an awkward and stressful position after a mere eight minutes. Luckily, for Al Hilal and the neutral spectator alike, the Reds are a side ill equipped to park the bus and all signs still pointed to an entertaining evening of football. The home side had not problem finding space in dangerous positions but with star term player Carlos Eduardo forced off due to injury after only 18 minutes and Shusaku Nishikawa at the top of his game between the Urawa posts, it still took half an hour for Al Hilal to find an equaliser after Syrian international Omar Khribin pounced on a loose ball inside the box. A dominant home side then came close to completing the turnaround but despite some high quality opportunities it was still 1-1 at break.

The Saudis picked up right where they left off pushed the Reds deep into their already defensive positions. The visitors were happy and, quite frankly lucky, to keep the scores level during the opening 15 minutes of the second half with more than one sequence that should have resulted in Al Hilal breaking the deadlock. All that stood between them and a comfortable lead was Nishikawa and the absence of Carlos Eduardo. It was a race against the clock for Al Hilal to get the crucial lead and Urawa to secure the upper hand halfway through the final round. In the end, the Japanese got exactly what captain Yuki Abe said they came for ahead of the match, and will bring a great 1-1 draw back home, where Al Hilal are set to face a completely different opponent than they did Saturday evening.

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