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Yokohama F. Marinos Edge Closer to Asian Champions League Title with Comeback Win over Al-Ain

Main image to the post Yokohama F. Marinos Edge Closer to Asian Champions League Title with Comeback Win over Al-Ain

Yokohama F. Marinos defeated Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates 2-1 in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final on Saturday. Kota Watanabe scored the winning goal in the 84th minute after Asahi Uenaka had equalized for the hosts in the second half.

Yokohama controlled most of the game at Nissan Stadium after conceding an early goal from Mohammed Al-Baloushi. The second leg is on May 25 at Al-Ain.

Yokohama coach Harry Kewell, who was part of the Liverpool team that came back from 3-0 down against AC Milan in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, is taking nothing for granted.

“I know in this game that it can be taken away from you so quickly,” said the Australian, who took the Yokohama job in December and has led the team to its first-ever final. “We have to understand that there is another 90 minutes to play and it’s going to be very difficult. They can enjoy the moment but there’s still a long way to go in this tie.”

“Today was not easy because their fans shouted and supported their team. In two weeks, it will be the opposite. We need to take advantage of that. We believe we can do it.”

Al-Ain, the 2003 champion and beaten finalist in 2005 and 2016, took the lead after just 12 minutes. Tournament top scorer Soufiane Rahimi outpaced Eduardo outside the area and while the Moroccan was denied a 12th goal by goalkeeper William Popp, Al-Baloushi was on hand to bury the rebound.

The home fans were silenced again on the half-hour mark when Matias Palacios put the ball in the net, but the Argentine midfielder was adjudged to have been offside after a video review.

Crespo had goalkeeper Khalid Eisa to thank at the break for keeping his team in the lead with several fine saves.

The second half pressure from Yokohama finally paid off after 72 minutes. Yan Matheus crossed from the right and Uenaka climbed high at the far post to send a bouncing header past the diving Eisa.

With six minutes remaining, former Arsenal winger Ryo Miyaichi’s shot from the left was guided in from close range at the near post by Watanabe. Although the strike was initially disallowed for offside, the goal was quickly given after a video review.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09