Urawa Win Afc Champions League Title

by : Pankaj

SAITAMA, Japan, November 14: J-League and Emperor's Cup holders Urawa Reds won their first AFC Champions League title by edging Iran's Sepahan 2-0 in the second leg of the final here on Wednesday.
Urawa had needed a scoreless draw here after fighting out 1-1 away a week earlier, but they exploded before a noisy sell-out home crowd of 60,000 at the Saitama Stadium.
Forward Yuchiro Nagai drew first blood in the 22nd minute and midfielder Yuki Abe, who plays centre back for Japan, added another goal in the 71st minute.
Both Urawa and Sepahan had sought to become the first club from their countries to clinch the Asian title since the continental championship was expanded into its current format in 2003 by merging with the Cup Winners' Cup.
Urawa controlled the ball early in the game. Rob Ponte's free kick from midfield found Marcus Tanaka Tulio in front of the goal, but his header was punched away by Sepahan goalkeeper Abbas Mohammadi Shah Abadi in the seventh minute.
Then Nagai took a long pass from the midway line and banged past a Sepahan defender and Abadi into the net.
Sepahan came close to pull one back five minutes later when Iraqi midfieder Abdul Wahab Labed's 20-metre shot was deflected by Uraw keeper Ryota Tsuzuki.
The red-clad partisan crowd roared and sighed when Brazilian striker Washington's long ball from the midway line sent Abadi hurrying back to the net but landed on the net just behind the bar four minutes before the break.
Sepehan's ace striker Mahmoud Sibaki Karimi, who was sent in after 30 minutes despite a calf injury, failed to trap a through pass in front of Urawa's goal on the stroke of half-time.
Urawa and Sepahan swung into full throttle after the break and all but scored once each on the hour's mark in goalmouth scrambles.
But the home side went ahead 2-0 in the 71st minute when utility man Abe slotted in a rebound off Nagai's shot into the right corner.
In the 78th minute, Karimi caught a through pass in an empty area and flicked past Tsuzuki into the Urawa goal only to be ruled off-side.
Former Bundesliga midfielder Moharram Navidkia desperately shot from outside the box in the 83rd minute but the ball went wide.
Urawa, playing in their first AFC Champions League campaign, has not lost a match with five wins and seven draws, beating defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea 4-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.
Sepahan, who faded in the group stage in 2004 and 2005, have scored five wins and five draws against two losses.
Jubilo Iwata were the last Japanese team to win the Asian club championship in 1999, while Iran has been without the title since 1993 when PAS triumphed.