Top-scorer Gomis named MVP
Saitama, Japan - Salem al-Dawsari and Bafetimbi Gomis were the heroes as Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal beat Urawa Red Diamonds 2-0 on Sunday and 3-0 on aggregate to claim a record-equalling third Asian club title in the AFC Champions League.
Dawsari scored with 16 minutes left and top-scorer Gomis grabbed his 11th of the competition in injury time as the Saudi giant ended a 19-year wait for its third continental trophy, joining South Korea's Pohang Steelers as the only three-time Asian champions. Al Hilal, beaten by Japan's Urawa in the 2017 final, also became the competition's first West Asian winners since Qatar's Al Sadd in 2011, torpedoing a run of victories by clubs from Japan, South Korea, China and Australia.
Al Hilal had the better of the opening half as it looked to build on its 1-0 win in the first-leg, when Andre Carrillo scored the only goal. Both goalkeepers were forced into action early on, but it was Urawa's Takahiro Sekine who had the best chance of the half when his point-blank volley was scrambled away by Hilal custodian Abdullah al Mayoof.
After the break tournament top-scorer Gomis, with ten goals en route to the final, drew a reaction save from Shuzaku Nishikawa when he connected with a menacing cross at the near post. Gomis found Nishikawa in his path once again when he chested down Sebastian Giovinco's cross and side-footed his volley straight at the Urawa goalkeeper.
However, they were ominous signs for the hosts and Al Hilal finally prised open the Urawa defence with a sweeping move on 74 minutes. Man-of-thematch Giovinco provided the final ball for Dawsari who gratefully prodded home the winner after a sequence of passes that caught out the backpedalling Urawa defenders.
Gomis came within inches of connecting with a diving header in the dying moments, but the towering forward was not to be denied later as he smashed in Al Hilal's second in the third minute of injury time.
The Saudi giant has endured a continental trophy drought since 2000 when it won the tournament for the second time, the first being in 1991 when it was called the Asian Club Championship.
It came close in 2014 and 2017 when it reached the final, only to be beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers and Urawa respectively.
Saitama, Japan - Bafetimbi Gomis of Al Hilal was named the 2019 AFC Champions League MVP (most valuable player0 and also won the topscorer award. Gomis scored 11 goals in Al Hilal's campaign.
Gomis' goals and leadership played a pivotal role in Al Hilal's triumph, a first for the club after having fallen in the 2014 and 2017 finals.
"I want to say that I’m happy to win this individual prize, but the collective prize was our main target ahead of the game.
"This team was born from day one when we started to work in our camp in Austria. We have a lot of individual talents, but the collective part of the work is very important to bring this all together." said Gomis.
"I want to say thank you to our coach [Razvan Lucescu of Romania] for strengthening the collective ability of the team and I want to thank him for bringing Al Hilal onto the right track after 20 years of missing the Asian title. Our coach and the players all deserve to be Asian champions today."
Urawa, meanwhile, won the Fairplay award.
Gomis (left) with the MVP award