Urawa Red Diamonds hold off Shanghai SIPG to reach ACL 2019 semi-finals

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Urawa Red Diamonds have progressed to the semi-finals of AFC Champions League 2019 after a 1-1 draw with Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday saw them advance on away goals following a 3-3 aggregate tie.

Having claimed a 2-2 draw in the first leg three weeks earlier, Urawa headed into the game knowing they only had to prevent their opponents from scoring at Saitama Stadium 2002 to progress.

However, they still showed plenty of initiative going forward and had the first real chance to break the deadlock in the 35th minute; Kazuki Nagasawa meeting Daiki Hashioka’s right-wing cross with a well-struck first-time effort that forced Yan Junling into a smart save.

AFC Champions League 2019: Urawa Red Diamonds 1-0 Shanghai SIPG (Yan Junling Own Goal 39′)

But, four minutes later, there was to be no denying the hosts as Takahiro Sekine cut in from the left and floated in an excellent delivery that was met by Shinzo Koroki with a powerful header that Yan got a hand to, only for the ball to come back off the bar and ricochet off the SIPG goalkeeper into the back of his own net.

Now definitely need a response, SIPG – who were missing star man Hulk through suspension – began to show greater urgency.

And, right on the hour mark, they duly equalised on the night when a lovely ball swung in from the left by Yu Hai found Wang Shenchao, who had ghosted into the area unnoticed and produced an excellent first-time finish to sweep the ball home from close range.

AFC Champions League 2019: Urawa Red Diamonds 1-1 Shanghai SIPG (Wang Shenchao 60′)

Just a minute later, the Reds could easily have reclaimed the lead when Hashioka received possession just inside the area and unleashed a rocket that had Yan beaten all ends up only to see if crash back off the bar.

Nonetheless, Urawa – ACL champions just two years ago – played with an impressive level of maturity and never looked in danger of allowing the visitors to score again, playing out the remainder of the contest to seal their berth in the final four.

URAWA RED DIAMONDS: Shusaku Nishikawa, Takuya Iwanami, Daisuke Suzuki, Tomoaki Makino, Daiki Hashioka, Ewerton (Kai Shibato 78’), Takuya Aoki, Takahiro Sekine (Yuki Abe 83’), Kazuki Nagasawa, Fabricio (Yuki Muto 86’), Shinzo Koroki.

SHANGHAI SIPG: Yan Junling, Wang Shenchao, He Guan, Shi Ke (Fu Huan 73’), Yu Hai, Cai Huikang (Zhang Wei 66’), Yang Shiyuan (Lin Chuangyi 26’), Oscar, Li Shenglong, Lu Wenjun, Marko Arnautovic.

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