Urawa Red Diamonds have ended a woeful run of ten games without a win as they beat Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0 in the first leg of the AFC Champions League 2019 semi-finals on Wednesday.
Despite their poor recent form, it was Urawa who started the brighter of the two sides at Saitama Stadium 2002 and they duly broke the deadlock in the 19th minute through a moment of brilliance from Fabricio.
AFC Champions League 2019: Urawa Red Diamonds 1-0 Guangzhou Evergrande (Fabricio 19′)
Latching onto a layoff by Takahiro Sekine down the left, the Brazilian made his way towards the area and sized up the goal before unleashing a stunning 25-yard rocket past Zeng Cheng.
The hosts came excruciatingly close to doubling their lead four minutes before the half-hour mark when Daiki Hashioka was released by a visionary through-pass from Kazuki Nagasawa and did well to take it around Zeng, but Deng Hanwen make an amazing sliding recovery to clear the shot right before it crossed the line.
WHAT. A. GOAL. LINE. CLEARANCE. 🤯
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Urawa continued to dominate proceedings after the break and threatened once more in the 67th minute when Hashioka whipped in a cross from the right and it was met by a first-time volley from Yuki Muto, forcing Zeng into a good flying save.
AFC Champions League 2019: Urawa Red Diamonds 2-0 Guangzhou Evergrande (Takahiro Sekine 75′)
But eight minutes later, the Reds were not to be denied their second goal when Evergrande failed to fully clear their lines from a corner and Huang Bowen’s weak effort fell straight to Sekine, who proceeded to fire away a ferocious effort from all of 30 yards into the back of the net.
The visitors did look to have grabbed a potentially vital away goal with six minutes remaining when Paulinho helped Anderson Talisca’s pass through to Wei Shihao, who made no mistake in finishing past Shusaku Nishikawa – only for the strike to be disallowed for offside.
In the end, Urawa held on for a deserving win and will be looking to find some form as the season reaches its business end, with the second leg to come on October 23.
URAWA RED DIAMONDS: Shusaku Nishikawa, Takuya Iwanami, Daisuke Suzuki, Tomoaki Makino, Daiki Hashioka, Ewerton, Takuya Aoki, Takahiro Sekine (Tomoya Ugajin 88’), Kazuki Nagasawa (Yuki Abe 86’), Fabricio (Yuki Muto 67’), Shinzo Koroki.
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE: Zeng Cheng, Gao Zhunyi, Feng Xiaoting, Park Ji-soo, Deng Hanwen (Wei Shihao 81’), Huang Bowen, Zheng Zhi (Gao Lin 65’), Zhang Linpeng, Anderson Talisca, Paulinho, Elkeson (Yang Liyu 87’).