Al Ahli qualified for the Asian Champions League final after securing a dramatic 3-2 victory over Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal in the second leg of semi-final at the Al-Rashid Stadium on Tuesday.
Kwon Kyung-won’s late strike was enough to send the UAE giants to the Asia’s premier club tournament for the first time in history. They eliminated last year’s finalists with a 4-3 aggregate win.
Following a 1-1 draw in Riyadh, Al Ahli did not sit back on their away goal lead and took the lead after 17 minutes when Rodrigo Lima tapped in captain Ahmed Khalil’s pass from the left.
Everton Ribeiro’s chip before the break bolstered the host, but Al Hilal gave a superb response in the second half by equalising the score through efforts from Ailton and Carlos Eduardo before Kwon scored the late winner for Al Ahli.
“It’s qualification, but for me it’s a little bit difficult, because against Hilal one eye cries, one eye is happy,” said Cosmin Olaroiu, who had a mixed emotions after eliminating Al Hilal as his former employee.
“Of course I’m happy mostly for my players, they are heroes for what they have done. Nobody gave them a chance and now they are in the final. I told them just there that they don’t have to stop here.
“In the first half we dominated totally, we created chances we scored two goals and we controlled the game. In the second half, we thought it was easy and that we had qualified. Then we conceded the first goal and then for 15 minutes we panicked and lost control,” he added.
“I think from what happened over the two games we deserved to qualify and my players deserve the congratulations in the way they played and the way they fought. They don’t give up and they deserve to have the best performance in the club’s history in this kind of Asian Champions League competition.”
Al Ahli will face either of Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande or J-League side Gamba Osaka in the two-legged final games which are scheduled to play on November 7 and 21.