Al-Ain overturns first-leg loss to win Asian Champions League final in UAE

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates won the Asian Champions League on Saturday, coming back from a 2-1 first-leg deficit at Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos two weeks ago to win 6-3 on aggregate.

More than 20,000 home fans cheered on a 5-1 second-leg victory at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Al-Ain added to its 2003 title after losing two finals since then.

The home side coached by former AC Milan, Inter and Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo was dominant over the Japanese club led by former Liverpool and Leeds winger Harry Kewell.

“It was a fantastic performance from the players,” Crespo said. “We worked hard from the start and then we got a great reward. This is a great night for the club.”

Al-Ain took the game to the visitors in the first half and soon took the lead.

After just eight minutes, tournament top scorer Soufiane Rahimi found the target for the 12th time and Argentine forward Kaku converted a penalty to put Al-Ain ahead just after a half hour.

Five minutes before the break however, Yokohama hit back to silence the home fans. Yan Matheus made it 3-3 on aggregate.

There was still time before the break, however, and Yokohama was reduced to 10 men after goalkeeper William Popp was sent off after bringing down Rahimi outside the area.

After that, it was always an uphill struggle for Yokohama.

Midway through the second half, Moroccan forward Rahimi scored his 13th goal of the tournament to put Al-Ain, beaten finalist in 2005 and 2016, ahead once more.

Yokohama did its utmost to get back into the final, but two late goals from Al-Ain’s Togolese forward Kodjo Laba put the outcome beyond the five-time Japanese champion hoping for its first Asian Champions League title.

Al-Ain was also rewarded with a spot in the 2025 Club World Cup, which has been expanded from seven teams to 32.

“We want to test ourselves against the very best teams in the world,” Crespo said.


AP soccer: