NAGOYA, Japan (AFP) - Two-time champions Al Ittihad moved within a match of regaining their AFC Champions League title on Wednesday when they defeated Japan's Nagoya Grampus 2-1 in the semi-finals.
The Saudi giants, who won the tournament in 2004 and 2005, built on their emphatic 6-2 first leg victory for an 8-3 aggregate win with Saleh Al-Saqri and Amine Chermiti finding the target.
In the final on November 7 in Tokyo, they will play South Korea's Pohang Steelers, after they beat Qatari minnows Umm-Salal 2-1 in Doha, 4-1 on aggregate.
"We won both home and away games against a strong Japanese team," said Al Ittihad's Argentine coach Gabriel Calderon.
"We proved that we deserve to reach the final. It was a game that exactly went as we had planned and my players were ready to do it. Now, we will go and try to win the championship, of course," he added.
Knowing they needed at least four goals to go through, Nagoya started the game with three forwards, including Australian international Josh Kennedy and Keiji Tamada.
They held the initiative early on with Kennedy's header in the 33rd minute hitting the bar, while Tamada had a chance soon after.
But the Saudis soon got in the game and took the lead when Nagoya goalkeeper Toru Hasegawa failed to collect a shot and defender Al-Saqri pounced on the loose ball to fire a close-range goal three minutes before half-time.
They doubled their lead on 59 minutes when skipper Mohammed Noor, who scored a hat-trick in the first leg, sent a pin-point pass through to Chermiti who comfortably headed home.
Despite facing an impossible task, Nagoya didn't give up and their efforts finally paid dividends when substitute Keita Sugimoto unleashed a spectacular overhead shot, which flashed past Saudi goalkeeper Mobrouk Zayed.
That completed the scoring, leaving the home crowd disappointed and Al Ittihad looking forward to yet another final.
Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic admitted the best side won.
"Unfortunately we lost but in football you have to create a chance to score. We didn't score enough, we didn't take our chances, and after the mistakes, we lost the game," he said.
"But I'm very satisfied with the behaviour of my players. To be in the best four, it's really a good result, and the semi-finals, we lost in the first leg, not today. We lost in Jeddah 6-2.
"Al Ittihad were a better team. Congratulations."
Umm Salal put up a plucky performance against Pohang, but in the end the Koreans were more savvy and too powerful for the Qataris.
After a goalless first half, striker Stevo put Pohang ahead in the 55th minute and four minutes later No Byung-Jun made it 2-0 ending the Qatari side's dream run in the competition.
Ibrahima Nadiya gave some consolation to Umm Salal with a goal deep into injury time.
Pohang looked more dangerous after the break and went 1-0 up in the 55th minute. Midfielder Kim Jae-sung after tapping a pass from deep midfield, put Stevo Ristic through and the Slovenia striker beat Umm Salal goalkeeper Baba Malick with a low right footed finish.
In the 59th minute, No Byung-Jun, after gathering a loose ball on the left, slipped past a couple of defenders before slotting home to make it 2-0 for the visitors.
Umm Salal tried hard to breach Pohang defence but poor understanding between their strikers remained their undoing as Nadiya wasted another opportunity, lifting the ball on the rebound of a freekick in the 62nd minute.
Davi then went close to scoring in the 75th minute but was denied by the post.
After wasting several chances, Umm Salal's tireless effort eventually bore fruit deep into injury time when Nadiya drilled home a freekick from 20 yards to narrow the deficit to 2-1.
|Coach: D. Stojković|
|Bruce rues calamitous Huddlestone miss|
|UEFA Europa League Review: Torino mark return with big win, Lyon victorious|
|Southampton win again|
|Jenkinson agrees West Ham loan|
|Tottenham agree Dier move|
|Rincon seals Genoa move|
|Dunne announces international retirement|
|Romulo close to Juve switch|
|Trencin 0 Hull City 0: Huddlestone pays penalty in Hull stalemate|
|Rennes prise Prcic away from Sochaux|
|CSL Preview: Liaoning look for swift response, buoyant R&F visit Henan|
|Pique desperate to regain high standards|
|Marseille agree three-year Stade Velodrome lease|
|Torres will not be leaving, says Mourinho|
|Bastia bring in Brandao|
|Paris Saint-Germain v Guingamp: League and cup winners battle for Trophee des Champions|
|Argentine Primera Division suspended after Grondona death|
|Immobile: Lewandowski is the past, I am the future|
|Rose pens new Tottenham deal|
|CSL Review: Evergrande end Harbin run, Henan edge clear of danger|
|Ivory Coast appoint Renard|
|Three-man shortlist for South Korea post|
|MLS Preview: Sounders aiming to bounce back against Earthquakes|
|Personal reasons behind Evra´s Juve switch|
|Liga MX Preview: Monterrey out to continue winning run|
|J.League Preview: Oenoki begins S-Pulse reign at Tokyo|
|K.League Preview: Jeonbuk face tricky Jeonnam test, Pohang visit Suwon|
|Kakuta loaned to Vallecano|
|Morrison remanded in custody|
|Hernandez coy on United exit|
|Neymar on road to recovery|
|Feyenoord capture Wilkshire and Basacikoglu|
|Yoel makes Valencia switch|
|Heaton extends Burnley deal|
|Lees leaves Leeds for Wednesday|
|Caballero eyes first-team action|
|Newcastle ´monitoring´ Remy, claims Pardew|
|Rodriguez ready to fight for Real place|
|Cavani ´certain´ he will stay with PSG|
|Morrison charged with assaults|
|Copenhagen slam security after fan violence in Kiev|
|Gerrard: Suarez ´too good´ for Arsenal|
|Mourinho explains Lukaku exit|
|Simeone content with Atleti workout|
|Milligan: Australia targeting Asian Cup|
|Ronaldinho rules out retirement|
|Rodgers challenges Henderson|
|Jovetic can be City catalyst - Pellegrini|
|Janko joins Sydney as marquee|
|Deila ´unbelievably disappointed´ with Celtic|
|MLS Review: DC close on Sporting, Red Bulls hold RSL|
|Ecuadorian Primera A Review: Emelec crowned champions|
|Bolivar 1 San Lorenzo 0 (agg 1-5): Visitors advance to maiden Libertadores final|
|Gerrard open to move abroad|
|Lukaku tells Chelsea ´no hard feelings´|
|Zaha eager to impress Van Gaal|
|Liverpool down Man City after shoot-out|
|Atletico fall to Gonzalez´s penalty heroics|
|Glazers offer up 8m United shares|
|Bertrand joins Southampton on loan|
|Van Aanholt features as Sunderland fall to defeat|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Celtic hammered in Warsaw|
|Collison stakes his claim as QPR are held|
|Newcastle youngsters edge to Wednesday win|
|Villa beaten by buoyant Chesterfield|
|Juve held by new boys Cesena|
|Late Drinkwater strike helps Leicester see off Walsall|
|Everton seal club-record Lukaku deal|
|Lazio complete De Vrij capture|
|Fabregas opens account in Chelsea win|
|AFA president Grondona dies aged 82|
|Trezeguet heading for Indian Super League|
|Premier League to introduce vanishing foam|
|Rennes bring in Bruls|
|Kehl steps down as Dortmund captain|
|Capello: I´m staying until 2018|
|Pedro saddened by Fabregas departure|
|Fernandez agrees Porto switch|
|West Ham close on Jenkinson, says Allardyce|
|Donnelly out for three months|
|Chambers: It has been a whirlwind|
|Lukaku drops Chelsea exit hint|
|Mee signs new deal at Burnley|
|Lovren denied United States visa|
|Redknapp admits Fer interest|
|No official Cuadrado bids, insists agent|
|Maguire ready to make step up|
|Rodgers: Liverpool have a strategy in transfer market|
|Ki out to prove himself at Swansea|
|Garcia plays down importance of Real scalp|
|Evian complete Bruno signing|
|Poyet frustrated by lack of new faces|
|Mexes convinced Milan are improving|
|Mazzarri praises Inter attitude|
|Ronaldo could face Manchester United - Ancelotti|
|Tevez thanks fans after father found ´safe and well´|
|Gabi braced to tackle big-spending rivals|
|Shaw: I deserved Van Gaal criticism|
|Morinigo surprised by Gedoz substitution|
|Honduras appoint Medford|
|Van Gaal delighted with United display|
|Roma battle past Real Madrid|
|Simeone talks up Hernandez transfer|
|Defensor Sporting 1 Nacional Asuncion 0 (1-2 agg): Visitors into final despite loss|
|United edge Inter on penalties|
|Gerrard: It´s been ´the worst three months of my life´|
|Sabella set to quit Argentina post|
|Toure plans to see out career with City|
|Tevez´s father released after kidnapping|