Kuala Lumpur: With AFC Champions League glory awaiting one of the 32 hopefuls who will get the Group Stage of this year's continental extravaganza underway next week, join the-afc.com as we take a look back at five of the most memorable finals in the history of Asia's premier club competition.
1. 2004: Al Ittihad v Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
It was, and arguably still is, the greatest comeback in Asian club football history. Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad recovered from a 3-1 defeat at home in the first leg to win the return fixture 5-0 and seal what had seemed an improbable continental success. This remains the only time a team has recovered from a first leg deficit to lift the AFC Champions League title.
2. 2011: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors v Al Sadd
After five years of back-to-back East Asian winners, Qatar’s Al Sadd ended the slump and wrested the AFC Champions League crown back for the West by defeating Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on penalties after a thrilling 2-2 scoreline in normal time. Their achievements saw them become the first, and so far only, side to win the AFC Champions League having begun their campaign in the Play-offs.
3. 2013: FC Seoul v Guangzhou Evergrande
Although the second leg in southern China was not the greatest of spectacles, the ramifications of Guangzhou Evergrande ending their nation’s 23 year continental drought were significant. After an exciting 2-2 first leg draw against FC Seoul, Marcello Lippi’s side edged out the Koreans on away goals after a nerve-wracking 1-1 tie at Tianhe Sports Centre Stadium to make history and underline the rise of the Chinese Super League.
4. 2006: Al Karamah v Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
With just four minutes remaining at the Khalid ibn al Walid Stadium in Homs, the fourth AFC Champions League final between Syria’s Al Karamah and Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors was set to go to extra-time. Second half goals from Iyad Mando and Mohanad Ibrahim had cancelled out Jeonbuk’s two-goal advantage from the first leg and looked set to take the tie into an additional 30 minutes. But then Jeonbuk striker Ze Carlos stepped up, and the rest, as they say, is history.
5. 2014: Al Hilal v Western Sydney Wanderers
Western Sydney Wanderers’ 2014 AFC Champions League success encapsulated the ultimate underdog story. Formed just two years earlier, the men from Parramatta upset the odds to take on and defeat Asia’s best in what was their debut AFC Champions League campaign. Having defeated Saudi giants Al Hilal 1-0 in the final first leg in Australia, Tony Popovic’s side then defied a cauldron of noise created by over 63,000 at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium to see out the tie and complete one of the most astonishing AFC Champions League campaigns.