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22 June 2024

Al Ain Clinches AFC Champions League Title for the Second Time

By E247

Al Ain has been crowned champions of the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League, securing the title for the second time in its history. Their previous win in the competition under its current name was in 2003, 21 years ago. Al Ain defeated Japan's Yokohama Marinos 5-1 in the second leg of the final at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, overcoming a 1-2 loss in the first leg in Japan. Goals for Al Ain were scored by Soufiane Rahimi (two goals at minutes 8 and 67), Kaku (penalty at minute 34), and Laba Kodjo (two goals at minutes 2 and 5 of added time). Yokohama's goal was scored by Yan Matheus in the 40th minute. The match saw the expulsion of Japanese goalkeeper William Pope in the 10th minute of added time of the first half.

The first half was intense and strong, with Yokohama surprising Al Ain with aggressive offensive play at the start of the match. Anderson Lopes's weak shot was easily caught by Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa in the 2nd minute. Al Ain then launched their own offensive, quickly passing the ball in midfield and forcing Yokohama to retreat. Al Ain's first goal came from a well-organized play, with Soufiane Rahimi passing to Yahia Nader, who returned it with a backheel to Rahimi, resulting in a beautifully orchestrated goal.

The match balanced out after the goal. Khalid Eisa made an error, giving Yokohama a chance that ended with a shot by Ken Matsubara in the 17th minute, which Eisa deflected for a corner. Al Ain got their first corner in the 22nd minute, but the cross was easily caught by Yokohama's goalkeeper William Pope. Intense physical play saw players from both sides fall frequently, and Rahimi committed a foul on the edge of the penalty area. Giovanni Aleer took a powerful shot, saved by Eisa in the 26th minute.

Rahimi received a yellow card for simulation while seeking a penalty. However, VAR intervened, awarding Al Ain a penalty for a foul on Rahimi by Shinnosuke Hatanaka, and the yellow card was rescinded. Kaku successfully converted the penalty, giving Al Ain their second goal in the 34th minute. Al Ain continued their offensive pressure, capitalizing on Yokohama's disarray, and Rahimi nearly added a third in the 38th minute but missed the target.

Kwame made a mistake with a simple ball, allowing Yan Matheus to score for Yokohama in the 40th minute, briefly reviving their hopes. The referee added 10 minutes of stoppage time in the first half, during which Al Ain tried to penetrate Yokohama's defense with long passes. Rahimi's pass to Palacios resulted in a strong shot saved by the Japanese goalkeeper, and Eisa made another save against a powerful Japanese shot. William Pope was sent off in the 10th minute of stoppage time for a foul on Rahimi outside the penalty area, with substitute goalkeeper Fuma Shirasaka coming on for Elber Da Silva.

Yokohama made a second substitution at the start of the second half to compensate for their numerical disadvantage, while Al Ain kept their lineup unchanged. Yokohama retreated defensively, allowing Al Ain to control the game. The Japanese goalpost saved them from an own goal in the 57th minute, and Laba Kodjo came on to bolster Al Ain's attack in the 58th minute. Yokohama's players began to show signs of fatigue, forcing their coach to make multiple changes to cope with Al Ain's strong pressure.

Al Ain's pressure paid off with a third goal in the 67th minute, a skillful dribble and powerful shot by Rahimi, sending Al Ain fans into celebration. Al Ain continued their offensive performance, pinning Yokohama in their half. A goal by substitute Laba Kodjo was disallowed for offside in the 76th minute. Al Ain's coach made a forced substitution due to Mohammed Abbas's injury in the 82nd minute, bringing on Ahmed Barman. The referee added 10 minutes of stoppage time, during which Yokohama's substitute goalkeeper made an error, allowing Laba Kodjo to score Al Ain's fourth goal in the 2nd minute of added time. Three minutes later, Kodjo added his second personal and fifth team goal. Barman saved Al Ain's goal from a second Japanese attempt, sealing Al Ain's official crowning as Asian champions.

Source: Albayan Newspaer