November 24, 2019 / 4:21 PM / 21 days ago

Belief key to Asian Champions League title, says Al Hilal coach

TOKYO (Reuters) - Al Hilal boss Razvan Lucescu said his side’s Asian Champions League final victory on Sunday was built on the belief they gained from their first-leg win over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds two weeks ago.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal finally ended their continental trophy drought as strikes from Salem Al Dawsari and Bafetimbi Gomis helped them secure a 2-0 win over the Japanese side that completed a 3-0 aggregate success.

Yet Lucescu believes the hard work in winning their first-ever Asian Champions League title was done in the opening leg in Riyadh when Andre Carrillo earned Al Hilal a one-goal advantage in the tie.

“With all respect to our opponents, we were fully confident that we would win this trophy,” said Lucescu.

“The first game gave us huge confidence and at the same time our determination, the will from each player was put in with all these strong feelings to win this title after such a long period.

“I can’t describe the last 15 minutes. I was living in this period with all this strong belief, but in the moment when we scored (the second goal) I felt nothing could change the situation and I was very happy.”

The win was their first in the continent’s premier club competition since 2000 - when Al Hilal won the now defunct Asian Club Championship - and comes after heartbreaking failures in the 2014 and 2017 finals.

Urawa had offered little in attack despite needing to score at least once to haul themselves back into the tie and Al Dawsari’s close-range finish all but ended the Japanese side’s hopes of a record third title 16 minutes from fulltime.

Gomis ensured the trophy was going back to Riyadh in injury time when he punished Urawa on the break as Al Hilal avenged their defeat at the hands of the J-League club in the final two years ago.

The victory qualified Al Hilal for next month’s FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar.

Lucescu’s team will face African champions Esperance from Tunisia in their opening game on Dec. 14.

“It’s fantastic for us to be there, it’s an honour,” he said.

“We have to be perfect because we will face teams that are all winners in their continents with different philosophies and mentalities.

“But please, let us enjoy these two or three days and not think at all about football.”

Editing by Toby Davis

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