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|
|Brazilian game called off due to TV dispute|
|Chelsea are already Premier League champions, says United boss Mourinho|
|Barcelona 2 Leganes 1: Late Messi penalty spares Ter Stegen´s blushes|
|Paris Saint-Germain 0 Toulouse 0: Champions spill valuable points|
|AC Milan 2 Fiorentina 1: Deulofeu strike keeps European hopes alive|
|Attitude got Man United through - Mourinho|
|Roma 4 Torino 1: Dzeko strikes again|
|Lincoln face Sutton or Arsenal in FA Cup quarter-finals, Chelsea host Man United|
|Neuer slams Jarstein after brawl|
|Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester United 2: Substitutes Pogba and Ibrahimovic combine for late winner|
|Inter insist Perisic going nowhere, rule out move for Verratti|
|Borussia Monchengladbach 1 RB Leipzig 2: Forsberg and Werner reignite title bid|
|Training-ground meetings paid dividends - Pochettino|
|I´m trying to find a team - Berbatov open to offers|
|Inspired by Zeman´s return, Pescara hammer Genoa 5-0|
|Gabigol wants to make history after Inter breakthrough|
|Chievo 1 Napoli 3: Sarri´s men bounce back from Champions League disappoitment|
|Alfonso Perez calls for Pique to quit international football over political beliefs|
|Benatia refuses to question Allegri´s decisions|
|Fulham 0 Tottenham 3: Kane hat-trick fires Spurs into quarter-finals|
|Oblak return boosts Atletico ahead of Leverkusen trip|
|Gabigol and Inter ready to feast on success after late winner|
|Bologna 0 Inter 1: Gabigol gets belated lift-off in Serie A|
|Still no Mascherano or Arda for Barcelona|
|Bielsa appointed Lille boss from next season|
|Janssen determined to make the grade at Tottenham|
|Stones missing Kompany influence at Manchester City - Ferdinand|
|Central Coast Mariners 0 Melbourne Victory 3: Muscat´s men cruise to win|
|David Villa sent off after video replay|
|Favre not blaming Balotelli for latest red card|
|´It is my future at stake´ – Isco could leave Real Madrid|
|Smalling desperate for Ibrahimovic stay|
|´He will be here for sure´ - Mourinho rules out Shaw exit|
|Wenger not ready for retirement, wants Arsenal stay|
|Pogba will soon look cheap, claims Manchester United boss Mourinho|
|Casilla defends under-fire Navas|
|Isco ´happy and committed´ at Real Madrid – Zidane|
|Middle finger gesture was because I was spat at - Ancelotti|
|Leicester must learn from Millwall´s ´gladiators´ – Ranieri|
|Sevilla 2 Eibar 0: Sampaoli´s side move up to second|
|Lorient 0 Nice 1: Balotelli sent off as visitors go second|
|Too early to talk about Chelsea double – Conte|
|Conte delighted with Chelsea´s fringe players|
|Foreign players don´t expect cup upsets – Terry|
|Bale eyes top form and titles after scoring on Real Madrid comeback|
|Watzke received death threats after Leipzig match|
|Wolves 0 Chelsea 2: Pedro and Costa send Conte´s men through|
|Zidane reveals what he whispered to Bale before comeback goal|
|Dardai hits out at ´Bayern bonus´ after late equaliser|
|Ancelotti adamant Bayern deserved controversial equaliser|
|Ronaldo was not getting anxious, insists Zidane|
|Kompany injury not serious, says Manchester City boss Guardiola|
|Kompany injury not serious, says Manchester City boss Guardiola|
|Ranieri: 10-man Millwall were better than us|
|Piszczek represents everything Borussia Dortmund stand for - Tuchel|
|Championship Review: Brighton back top, Wednesday capitalise on Norwich slip|
|´Vamosss!!!´ - Bale ecstatic after scoring on Real Madrid return|
|Favourites tag weighed heavily on Burnley in Lincoln loss, says Dyche|
|Simeone delighted with Gameiro´s ruthless cameo|
|Millwall 1 Leicester City 0: Cummings wins it for 10-man Lions|
|Middlesbrough 3 Oxford United 2: Stuani rescues Boro after minute of mayhem|
|Real Madrid 2 Espanyol 0: Bale scores on comeback as hosts extend lead|
|Huddersfield Town 0 Manchester City 0: No pep from Guardiola´s men in cup stalemate|
|Hertha Berlin 1 Bayern Munich 1: Lewandowski rescues champions with last kick|
|Barton denies trying to force Rhead red and accuses Lincoln of play-acting|
|Borussia Dortmund 3 Wolfsburg 0: Piszczek stars with Yellow Wall absent|
|Cowley brothers marvel at Lincoln´s FA Cup heroics|
|Violence in the stands mars Tigres victory|
|Raggett ´lost for words´ after sending Lincoln into FA Cup quarter-finals|
|Gameiro dedicates hat-trick to grandmother|
|Burnley 0 Lincoln City 1: Raggett puts non-league heroes in FA Cup dreamland|
|Gameiro hits fastest LaLiga hat-trick in 22 years|
|Big-money signing Krychowiak to play with PSG reserves|
|Sporting Gijon 1 Atletico Madrid 4: Stunning Gameiro hat-trick snatches victory|
|A-League Review: Derby defeat for Sydney, Melbourne City cruise to victory|
|Barcelona results ´irrelevant´ to Luis Enrique´s future|
|Montella backs Donnarumma for Ballon d´Or|
|Bournemouth congratulate Arter on birth of daughter|
|Loftus-Cheek confident his Chelsea chance will come|
|Rashford still part of Mourinho´s plans - Brown|
|Klopp confirms Liverpool transfer plans are already underway|
|No chance of Jesus joining Inter, says agent|
|Dani Alves: If anyone can come back, it´s the Barcelona machines|
|Purslow stepping down from Chelsea role|
|Redknapp: Tottenham will win Premier League within four years|
|Buffon one of the greatest of all time - Casillas|
|Winning over happiness for Chelsea´s Conte|
|Manchester City can still win Premier League - Gundogan|
|Ferdinand backs Keane to re-sign with United like Pogba|
|Pochettino: Janssen must do more at Tottenham|
|Marotta: Juve signing Verratti unrealistic|
|Guardiola: I will never return to Barcelona|
|Allegri jokes ´how is my English?´ as Arsenal rumours intensify|
|We did not play well – Juventus hero Dybala fires Porto warning|