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Kewell's Marinos earn Asian Champions League advantage

Kouta Watanabe has struck six minutes from time to give hosts Yokohama F. Marinos a 2-1 win over Al-Ain in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final.

The victory earned former Socceroo Harry Kewell's side a slender advantage ahead of the return.

Mohammed Abbas put the United Arab Emirates giants in front after 12 minutes on Saturday night when he reacted quickest to a rebound after Soufiane Rahimi's shot was saved by Marinos goalkeeper William Popp.

The Japanese side pulled level with 18 minutes remaining after Yan Matheus cut in from the right to deliver a curling cross that Asahi Uenaka headed beyond Khalid Eisa to leave the tie delicately poised.

Asahi Uenaka.
Asahi Uenaka celebrates his goal with teammates during the first leg of the ACL final. (AP PHOTO)

Watanabe grabbed the winner when he slotted in from close range after Ryo Miyaichi redirected Matheus' centre into his path, with the goal given after a VAR review.

"I give my players credit, they worked hard all game," said Kewell.

"They drove Al-Ain into the ground with their passing and movement. We couldn't get that goal at the start, but we kept our discipline and commitment and we got our reward in the end.

"I'm happy at this moment, but I know in this game it can be taken away from you so quickly."

The teams meet again in the UAE on May 25 with the winners taking Asia's last remaining berth at the FIFA Club World Cup in the United States next year.