Yokohama F. Marinos Edge Al Ain 2-1 in AFC Champions League Final First Leg

Yokohama F. Marinos defeated Al Ain 2-1 in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final, taking a slender advantage into the second leg. The Japanese side came from behind with goals from Asahi Uenaka and Kouta Watanabe to secure the win.

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Nitish Verma
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Yokohama F. Marinos Edge Al Ain 2-1 in AFC Champions League Final First Leg

Yokohama F. Marinos Edge Al Ain 2-1 in AFC Champions League Final First Leg

Yokohama F. Marinos secured a crucial 2-1 victory over Al Ain in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Japan. The win gives the Japanese side a slender advantage heading into the second leg on May 25th in the United Arab Emirates.

Al Ain drew first blood in the 12th minute when Mohammed Al-Baloushi capitalized on a rebound after Soufiane Rahimi's initial shot was saved by Marinos goalkeeper William Popp. However, the hosts responded with an equalizer in the 72nd minute as Asahi Uenaka headed in a cross from Yan Matheus at the far post.

Yokohama completed the turnaround in the 84th minute when Kouta Watanabe slotted home from close range after Ryo Miyaichi redirected Matheus' cross into his path. The goal was awarded after a VAR review overturned the initial offside decision.

After the match, Yokohama coach Harry Kewell praised his players' resilience, saying, "I give my players credit, they worked hard all game. We couldn't get that goal at the start, but we kept our discipline and commitment and we got our reward in the end." However, the Australian legend also cautioned against complacency, adding, "I'm happy at this moment, but I know in this game it can be taken away from you so quickly."

Meanwhile, Al Ain coach Hernan Crespo emphasized the importance of home support in the return leg. "We know what it means to play at home with our fans — 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."

This marks Yokohama F. Marinos' first-ever appearance in the AFC Champions League final. The J1 League club is aiming to become the first Japanese side to lift the trophy since Urawa Red Diamonds in 2017. In contrast, Al Ain is competing in the final for the fourth time, having won the title in 2003 and finishing as runners-up in 2005 and 2016.

The second leg at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on May 25th will determine the champions of Asia. The winners will secure the continent's last remaining berth at the FIFA Club World Cup, set to take place in the United States next year. With a one-goal advantage and two away goals, Yokohama F. Marinos are in pole position, but Al Ain's pedigree and home support ensure the tie remains finely poised.

Key Takeaways

  • Yokohama F. Marinos beat Al Ain 2-1 in the AFC Champions League final first leg.
  • Asahi Uenaka and Kouta Watanabe scored for Yokohama, overturning Al Ain's early lead.
  • Yokohama takes a 1-goal advantage into the second leg on May 25th in Al Ain.
  • The winner will secure a spot in the 2024 FIFA Club World Cup in the United States.
  • This is Yokohama's first AFC Champions League final, while Al Ain is competing in its fourth.