Urawa Red Diamonds 1 Al-Hilal 0 (2-1 agg): Rafael strike secures AFC Champions League glory
Rafael da Silva was the goalscoring hero once more as Urawa Red Diamonds defeated Al-Hilal 1-0 to secure AFC Champions League glory via a 2-1 aggregate victory.
The Brazilian's crucial away goal in Riyadh last Saturday gave Urawa the edge heading into the return in Saitama, and Ramon Diaz's side were unable to breach a stubborn Reds defence.
Their cause was not helped by a 78th-minute red card for Salem Al Dawsari, who picked up two cautions in quick succession, before Rafael effectively secured the trophy with a rare moment of quality in an otherwise dour affair, rattling a thumping finish in off the underside of the crossbar.
Defeat means a second final heartbreak in four years for Al-Hilal, who were beaten 1-0 over two legs by Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014.
Urawa, meanwhile, were left to celebrate their second continental crown, having beaten Sepahan 3-1 on aggregate back in 2007 and they were almost ahead inside 30 seconds here as Kazuki Nagasawa robbed an opponent and fired narrowly wide of the left-hand upright.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) November 25, 2017
The same player stole possession deep inside the visitors' territory once again in the eighth minute, but his shot from 20 yards was comfortable for Abdullah Al-Mayoof.
Al-Hilal's best moment of the opening period arrived three minutes prior to the interval but following neat interplay with Omar Khribin, Nicolas Milesi screwed his effort harmlessly off-target from inside the box.
There was little by way of goalmouth action in the second period and it was the home side who came closest to extending their advantage when Yosuke Kashiwagi's downward header was superbly saved by Al-Mayoof, who then gathered Rafael's prodded rebound.
Al Dawsari's studs-up challenge on Wataru Endo saw him receive a second yellow in the space of six minutes and with two minutes of normal time remaining, Rafael turned away from his marker, ran onto Yuki Moto's pass and hammered home a rasping drive, the Reds celebrating wildly at the final whistle.