UAE: Al Ain vs Yokohama AFC Champions League final; all you need to know

The country's most storied club take on five-time Japanese champions at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain at 8pm tonight


James Jose

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Al Ain coach Hernan Crespo with players in a huddle during training. Photo: Reuters
Al Ain coach Hernan Crespo with players in a huddle during training. Photo: Reuters

Published: Sat 25 May 2024, 3:51 PM

The English FA Cup final between fierce Manchester neighbours City and United at Wembley may have been decided by then and put to bed but, just over 7,000km away, at 8pm, it will be a flurry of activity in the otherwise quiet and serene garden city of Al Ain.

UAE's very own champion club Al Ain, winner of an astonishing record 14 UAE league titles, will be taking another shot at continental glory when they square off against five-time Japanese champions Yokohama F. Marinos in the second leg of the AFC Champions League final.

Winners of the inaugural title two decades ago, the only UAE club to do so, Al Ain, nicknamed 'The Boss,' will be hoping they can add to that piece of silverware. The club has the best and most passionate fan following — the Ainnawis — in the UAE but one can be sure they will be backed by the entire country as they try to become the best team in the whole of Asia.

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Here is all you need to know about the final:

Which teams are contesting the final?

UAE's Al Ain and Japan's Yokohama F. Marinos are facing-off in the title showdown.

Where is the match being played?

The venue for the game is the magnificent Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain's fortress.

What time is the match?

The game kicks-off at 8pm.

What happened in the first leg?

Yokohama won the first leg 2-1 held on May 11 in the International Stadium Yokohama. Mohamed Abbas had put Al Ain ahead on 12 minutes but the Japanese struck back through Asahi Uenaka and Kouta Watanabe on 72 and 84 minutes to take a slender lead into the second leg.

Have any of these teams won the title previously?

Yes. Al Ain won the inaugural title in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016.

Path to the final

Al Ain beat Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr 1-0 in the first leg in Al Ain and 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out in the return leg in Saudi Arabia, in the quarterfinals. In the semifinal, they defeated Asian heavyweights Al Hilal, the most successful club in the competition with four titles, 4-2 at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. And although they went down 1-2 in Riyadh in the second leg, Al Ain were through to the final 5-4 on aggregate.

Meanwhile, Yokohama beat Chinese side Shandong Taishan FC 2-1 in the quarterfinal first leg and then 1-0 in the second leg at home, in the quarterfinals. They lost to Korean side Ulsan Hyundai 1-0 in the first leg of the semifinals but went on to triumph 5-4 on penalties in the second leg, to make the cut.

Who is the top scorer in the competition?

Al Ain's Moroccan striker Soufiane Rahimi is the leading scorer with 11 goals, while Anderson José Lopes de Souza leads the charts for his club Yokohama with six goals.

Who are the coaches?

Al Ain are coached by celebrated Argentine Hernan Crespo, who played at three World Cups — 1998, 2002, 2006. He won the English Premier League as a player with Chelsea in the 2005-6 season apart from winning the Serie A thrice with Italian giants Inter Milan.

Meanwhile, Yokohama are managed by former Australian international Harry Kewell, who featured in the 2006 World Cup in 2006 and who turned out for Premier League club Liverpool, Leeds United and Turkish side Galatasaray, as a player.

What the coaches said?

Hernan Crespo: "We can only have one result — we need to win as this will decide whether we lift the trophy or don't. We are playing at home and we want to try and finish this competition with the right result. A lot of people did not expect we would be here but we are here and we will do our best to win," said Crespo."

Harry Kewell: "We are looking forward to the atmosphere tomorrow. My team are excited. We have played in many places where the fans don't like us because of the football we play but that doesn't bother us. The louder it is, the better it will be. We know Al Ain will make it hard for us but we are looking forward to the challenge and making history."

What are the security arrangements?

Abu Dhabi Police have secured the venue and the authority called on fans to arrive early to avoid crowding. They also urged fans to avoid fanaticism and to co-operate with the officers on duty.

The police also said that the northern outdoor parking lots of the stadium were allocated for Al Ain fans and the southern outdoor parking lots were allocated for Yokohama fans.


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