Best of the Mohicans – Leonardo takes charge for Jeonbuk in 2-1 first-leg AFC Champions League win over Al Ain
The Brazilian fires in a brilliant equaliser and coolly slots the winner from the sport after Omar Abdulrahman gives the Emiratis the lead
Brazilian forward Leonardo hit a blistering second-half double as Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors came from behind to beat Al Ain 2-1 and grab the initiative in the two-legged AFC Champions League final.
The mohican-sporting frontman grabbed his ninth and 10th goals of the competition to outshine Al Ain hotshot Omar Abdulrahman and put Jeonbuk in the driving seat ahead of next week’s second leg.
Top-rated Abdulrahman, nicknamed “Amoory”, delivered a sublime assist for Danilo Asprilla’s second-half opener but Leonardo then took control with a scorching equaliser and an ice-cool penalty seven minutes later.
It gives South Korea’s Jeonbuk the edge going into next week’s game against the Emiratis in Abu Dhabi, where both teams are seeking their second AFC Champions League title.
A tense first half saw plenty of uncompromising tackles but little goalmouth action in front of a packed and noisy crowd at Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
Jeonbuk won a string of free kicks around the box but Leonardo’s delivery was disappointing with Al Ain’s Khalid Eisa having little trouble punching clear.
Abdulhrahman, in a more advanced role than his usual playmaker position, was anonymous and Al Ain’s best chance was accidental, when Caio’s cross-shot zipped past the post.
It was dour stuff but Al Ain flicked the switch at half-time and Abdulrahman suddenly came alive, forcing Kwoun Sun-tae into a fine save with an instinctive snap-shot on 54 minutes.
His assist on 63 minutes was one for the ages, when he held off three defenders before picking out Asprilla, who had time to select his spot and rifle home left-footed.
But Leonardo then had the crowd on its feet with a brilliant equaliser on 70 minutes, when he made space and slammed his shot into the top corner from well outside the area.
Seven minutes later, the Brazilian put Jeonbuk ahead from the spot, coolly sending Eisa the wrong way after Mohammed Fayez had dragged down Kim Shin-wook in the six-yard box.
Veteran substitute Lee Dong-gook, 37, nearly extended his record of 32 Champions League goals but his header was cleared off the line five minutes from time.
Jeonbuk, whose domestic campaign was derailed by a match-fixing scandal, now have a chance to end their decade-long wait for a second Champions League title.
But Al Ain will take heart from their valuable away goal and Abdulrahman especially will be desperate to underline his undoubted talent with his first major title.