Al-Ain crush Marinos to win Asian Champions League final

Al-Ain crush Marinos to win Asian Champions League final


Soufiane Rahimi instrumental in lifting the trophy for first time since inaugural edition in 2003

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AL AIN (Reuters) – Al-Ain crushed 10-man Yokohama F Marinos 5-1 in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final on Saturday as a rampant Soufiane Rahimi led his team to a 6-3 aggregate win and their first continental title in 21 years.

The Moroccan was instrumental in the United Arab Emirates club lifting the trophy for the first time since the inaugural edition in 2003, scoring twice at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and playing a key role throughout the final.

Trailing 2-1 from the opening leg in Yokohama two weeks ago, Al-Ain were level on aggregate in the eighth minute as Rahimi slotted into the bottom corner having raced onto Yahia Nader's clever back flick of the striker's own through ball.

The goal was a sign of what was to come from Rahimi as he tormented the Yokohama defence, drawing a foul from Shinnosuke Hatanaka on the half-hour mark that led to Al-Ain's second, the home side awarded a penalty after a VAR review.

Midfielder Kaku stepped up to score as Marinos goalkeeper William Popp guessed the correct way but was unable to prevent the ball from finding the target in the 33rd minute.

However, the Harry Kewell-coached Japanese side pulled one back to level the aggregate score with five minutes left in the half, Yan Matheus punishing Kouame Kouadio after his mistake to stroke a low, left-foot shot past Khalid Eisa.

But there was to be further drama deep into injury time of an already eventful first half that swung the outcome in Al-Ain's favour.

With 10 added minutes on the clock, Rahimi was released behind the Marinos defence and, as he bore down on goal, Popp upended the livewire forward outside the area and referee Ilgiz Tantashev had no option but to show the goalkeeper a red card.

The sending off forced Marinos to become more defensive in the second half and Hatanaka hit his own crossbar under pressure from the rampant Rahimi.

In the 67th minute the forward punished substitute goalkeeper Fuma Shirasaka, beating him at his near post with a left-foot strike that put Al-Ain in command of the tie and gave Rahimi his 13th goal of the campaign.

With a one goal lead and a man advantage, Hernan Crespo's side went for the kill in the time that remained with Kodjo Laba applying the finishing touches to Marinos' defeat.

The Togo international capitalised on a terrible mistake by Shirasaka in the first minute of injury time to slot into an empty net and, four minutes later, he directed the ball in from close range to complete the Japanese side's misery.