Top-scorer Gomis named MVP

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

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

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