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September 14, 2017

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Urawa sets up last-four SIPG clash

URAWA Red Diamonds will face Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League semifinals after recovering to thrash Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 last night.

Urawa, title winner in 2007, won 5-4 on aggregate against fellow J-league side Frontale, which was reduced to ten men before half-time having led through Brazilian defender Elsinho.

But goals from Shinzo Koroki, Zlatan Ljubijankic, Rafael Silva and Toshiyuki Takagi saw Urawa overturn a 1-3 first-leg deficit and set up a rematch with Andre Villas-Boas’ SIPG side, after the teams had met in the group phase of the competition.

SIPG won the first meeting between the teams 3-2 before the Japanese club claimed a 1-0 win in front of their own fans to help it finish top of the group.

Frontale took a two-goal lead into the second leg at Saitama Stadium and Toru Oniki’s team was in control throughout the opening quarter of the game, with Elsinho’s 19th-minute goal giving the visitors a commanding lead.

Koroki leveled for Takafumi Hori’s Urawa 10 minutes from the break, before the game was turned on its head by Shintaro Kurumaya’s sending off 3 minutes later for dangerous play.

Despite a period of dominance from Urawa, it took until the 70th minute for the home side to take the lead, thanks to Ljubijankic’s header.

Two goals within a minute late in the game from Silva and Takagi sealed the win for Urawa, which advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2008, when it lost to fellow J-League side Gamba Osaka.

Urawa, currently eighth in the J-League table, faces SIPG away on September 27 in the first leg of their semifinal.

The return fixture will be played on October 18.

Iran’s Persepolis, meanwhile, will take on Saudi Arabia’s al-Hilal in the semifinal in the west of the continent after the Tehran-based club saw off al-Ahli.

After a 2-2 draw in the first leg, Persepolis claimed a 3-1 win away to progress with a 5-3 aggregate victory over the club from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

A pair of penalties in the final 10 minutes from Godwin Mensha and Mehdi Taremi were enough to take Branko Ivankovic’s side into the last four for the first time in the club’s history.


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