With the AFC Champions League Final fast approaching, Persepolis have a difficult task at hand. The Iranian club are currently trailing Kashima Antlers 2-0, after suffering a defeat in the first leg. However, as history is the witness, all is not lost yet. It just so happens, that sometimes, a team snatches victory in the unlikeliest of circumstances. We take a look at three such instances.
Bear in mind, that we are only included finals which were played over the course of two legs. Therefore, the following editions have been overlooked from the list: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.
#1 Al Ittihad vs Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (2004)
Al Ittihad’s first title in the AFC Champions League was a memorable one. The Saudi Arabian team had fought hard to reach the final in the first place. After a 2-1 win in the semifinal first leg against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the ‘people’s club’ had found themselves trailing 2-0 in the second leg. However, two goals in the final 20 minutes of the match turned the tie in favour of Ittihad, who progressed to the Final.
In the Final, they met South Korea’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. Playing at home, many expected Ittihad to win comfortably. However, it was their opponents who came out on top, beating them 3-1.
With two away goals in their kitty, Seongnam were seemingly the favourites to win the title. However, Ittihad refused to throw in the towel and beat the South Korean side 5-0 in their own stadium!
When the dust settled, Ittihad had overturned a two-goal deficit to win 6-3. A memorable title-win indeed!
#2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Al Karamah (2006)
Jeonbuk Hyundai had come within a whisker of the final just two years prior. However, they were beaten by Al-Ittihad in a stunning manner, who came from two behind to win the match.
In football, two years is a long time. And the Green Warriors were on the cusp of title glory yet again.
What was remarkable about Jeonbuk’s 2006 title-run was that they had overturned a first-leg deficit in both the quarterfinals and the semifinals! They were now faced with one final challenge, in the form of Syria’s Al-Karamah.
Playing the first leg of the final in Jeonju, the Green Warriors took an easy two-goal lead, an advantage they would carry with themselves to the away leg.
However, Al-Karamah came flying out of the blocks in the second leg and levelled the match on aggregate. With time running out, Jeonbuk’s Ze Carlos stepped up and scored for his side in the 86th minute! Jeonbuk lost on the night 2-1 but won on aggregate by 3-2.
#3 Al Hilal vs Urawa Red Diamonds (2017)
The most recent edition of the AFC Champions League saw controversy from the start. Title holders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were expelled from the competition due to their involvement in a bribery scandal. Furthermore, their appeal for provisional measures was rejected as well. With the title holders out, the trophy was for anyone to grab.
With much difficulty, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds made it into the final of the competition. The Reds trailed by a two-goal margin in both the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals but somehow managed to progress on both the occasions. A narrow win further in the semifinals saw them come up against Al-Hilal in the final of the 2017 Champions League.
The Reds visited Al-Hilal in the first leg and shared the spoils on the night with a 1-1 draw.
The second leg was a dire affair as well, with neither team unable to break the deadlock till the 88th minute. That’s when Rafael Silva stepped up. He scored in the final moments of the game to gift Urawa the win on the night and on aggregate.
Urawa’s final win might have been straightforward but their refusal to give up throughout the tournament made this victory even sweeter.