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Urawa come from behind to claim Asian title at AFC Women's Club Championship 2023 - Invitational Tournament

11 May 2024

Urawa come from behind to claim Asian title at AFC Women's Club Championship 2023 - Invitational Tournament

The final of the AFC Women's Club Championship 2023 - Invitational Tournament was played at Urawa Komaba Stadium on Friday 10 May, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies defeating Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels of Korea Republic 2-1 to claim the title.

The tournament, which serves as a preparation tournament for the AFC Women's Champions League 2024, saw Urawa, the 2022-23 WE League champions, qualify for the final after topping Group A in Thailand last November, while Incheon, the 2023 WK League champions, also reached the final after advancing through Group B in the group stage.

Urawa’s line-up included players of the Nadeshiko Japan (Japan Women's National Team), such as ISHIKAWA Rion and SEIKE Kiko, while Incheon, the 11-time WK League champions, also boasted players of the Korea Republic Women's National Team, such as KIM Jung-mi and KIM Hye-ri.

LEE So-hee opened the scoring for Incheon with a mid-range shot in the 13th minute, but Urawa equalised in the 22nd minute when Seike scored with a powerful shot from an ITO Miki assist. Four minutes later, SHIOKOSHI Yuzuho's corner was headed home by SHIMADA Mei to give Urawa a 2-1 lead and send the 5,271 crowd into a frenzy.

In response to Incheon's switch from a five-back to a four-back formation, Urawa brought TAKAHASHI Hana off the bench to stabilise their defence in the second half. While fending off Incheon's attacks, Urawa sought for chances to extend their lead, including shots from Seike and Shiokoshi in the 64th and 75th minutes respectively.

Urawa ended the match with a solid defensive performance in the second half, limiting Incheon to just one shot to claim the Asian title in the prep-tournament.

After the match, Urawa captain SHIBATA Hanae raised the trophy with both hands as confetti flew into the stands and the players looked on in satisfaction.

Coaches' and Players' Comments

KUSUNOSE Naoki, Head Coach (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
I would like to thank the WE League, JFA, Incheon for coming to Japan, Saitama City and Komaba Stadium for preparing the pitch for this final, which was once cancelled. As we saw in the first half, Incheon are a team that can really punish us if we are not on top of our game. We really wanted to take on more challenges, but it was a game that kept us on our toes until the very end. We are relieved to have won the tournament, but we still have important league games to play, so we want to move on without getting carried away. I hope the level of competition will continue to rise as we go through these tournaments.

MF #18 SHIBATA Hanae (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
It was a difficult game as we conceded the first goal and got flustered early on, but once we settled down we were able to play our game and win the game, which is the most important thing. As it was a match against an opponent we had never played before, it took us a while to get used to their tempo, but we just concentrated on playing our usual game. A lot of people have worked tirelessly to make this tournament possible, but if we don't win the league we won't be able to play in the main tournament, so we want to fight hard in the next two games of the WE League.

FW #11 SEIKE Kiko (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
I am happy to be able to play in this stadium wearing an Urawa jersey, and I am most happy that we won here. We hadn't conceded the first goal in our recent games, so we were being tested at this big stage, but we didn’t feel rushed because we were confident in our abilities. (Reflecting on her goal) I had a feeling that the ball was coming. Having grown up in the Urawa system, I knew how important this Asian title was for the club, so I feel very fortunate to be on this stage and will cherish the experience of winning this title for the club.

FW #15 SHIMADA Mei (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
Despite going behind, we managed to keep our composure and make the necessary adjustments as a team to score two goals. Although we struggled at times, it was great to be able to defend our lead. Facing a five-back formation was not part of our scouting, but when we were told they might play five in the back, we discussed how to attack from the flanks rather than the centre. (Reflecting on her goal) I thought it would be difficult to win the ball in the air against opponents who were bigger than me, so I made a conscious effort to delay the timing of my challenges.

KIM Eun-sook, Head Coach (Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels)
This was the first time the team had played in such an international tournament since I took over as head coach. We've come this far after winning the group stage in Uzbekistan, so we're very disappointed with this result. Urawa deserved to win and there was a lot to learn from their performance. It is a shame that our team was not at its best and I really wish we could have a rematch with Urawa when we are at our best.

AFC Women's Club Championship 2023 - Invitational Tournament

Tournament information

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