KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 (Reuters) Iran's Sepahan came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Japanese champions Urawa Reds in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final today in Esfahan.
Brazilian Robson Ponte gave the visitors a 1-0 lead just before the interval and Mahmoud Karimi equalised for Sepahan 50 seconds into the second half.
Urawa had to withstand Sepahan pressure in the second half to earn the draw and take an away-goal advantage into the second leg in Saitama on November. 14.
The Reds are hoping to become the first team from Japan to win Asia's premier club competition while Sepahan are aiming to do the same for Iran.
After seeing off a strong opening 10 minutes from Sepahan, Urawa took control with Yuichiro Nagai finding gaps in the home defence.
Nagai's header from close range went wide after 22 minutes, following a good cross from the left by Tadaaki Hirakawa.
The striker caused more problems for Sepahan five minutes later when he beat goalkeeper Abbas Mohammadi from a tight angle only for his shot to hit the post.
Sepahan's attacks were easily contained by Urawa's solid defence, led by Keisuki Tsuboi.
Urawa's domination paid dividends in the final minute of the first half when Ponte unleashed a 30-metre drive that sneaked into Mohammadi's left hand corner.
Sepahan brought on Ebrahim Lovinian for the second half and the move immediately paid off.
Lovinian's close-range shot rebounded off the post with Karimi on hand to stroke the ball past stranded goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki.
The Asian champions will qualify for the FIFA World Club Cup in Japan in December.
REUTERS NC RK2305