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Saitama: Matchwinner Rafael Silva claimed his strike that settled the 2017 AFC Champions League Final with two minutes remaining was only a minor part of Urawa Red Diamonds’ second continental title after the 1-0 victory over Al Hilal in the second leg at Saitama Stadium on Saturday ensured a 2-1 aggregate win.  

The Saudi side failed to cut out Yuki Muto’s pass and the 25-year-old Brazilian surged into the penalty area before unleashing a vicious shot that screamed past Abdullah Al Mayoof in the Al Hilal goal.

The goal was Silva’s ninth of the competition, just one behind the 2017 AFC Champions League Top Scorer Omar Khribin of Al Hilal, with the former Albirex Niigata forward having also scored in the first leg in Riyadh a week earlier.

“Of course, scoring a goal in a final like this is huge – it’s a wonderful thing,” said Silva, after the match.

“But I feel like I just made a contribution of a few percentage.”

Urawa had endured a testing first leg at King Fahd International Stadium where, despite going ahead inside the opening quarter of an hour through Silva’s close-range finish, they were largely dominated by an Al Hilal team looking for their first continental title since the tournament revamp in 2002-03.

The Saudi Pro League side did level things up through Khribin to ensure a tense match in the return meeting in Saitama, but Ramon Diaz’s team struggled to impose themselves to the same extent with clear-cut chances few and far between for the visitors from West Asia.

Similarly to the semi-final encounter with Shanghai SIPG – who also boasted the lion’s share of possession in a 1-1 first leg draw in China, before a 1-0 defeat in Japan – Urawa were able to do enough to get the result they needed in front of their own fans.

A result, and a title, Silva insisted, that was due to the collective work from a Urawa side that have signed off the 2017 campaign with a perfect home record.

“I think the victory came about as a result of the efforts of the team as a whole,” he said.

“I think we put on a really incredible game.”


Photos: Lagardère Sports