The National - News

Gomis confident Al Hilal will beat Pohang and land record Asian Champions League crown


Self-proclaimed “lion” Bafetimbi Gomis is convinced Al Hilal will defeat Pohang Steelers in the Asian Champions League final tonight and become the continent’s most successful club side.

The Saudi Arabian club take on their South Korean rivals in the showpiece at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, with both teams searching for an unpreceden­ted fourth title.

Hilal ended their long hunt for a third Asian crown two years ago, with Gomis playing an integral role as the club ended a 19-year wait for the trophy. The French striker top-scored in the tournament with 10 goals, including one in the 3-0 aggregate victory in the final against Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds.

Hilal, who enter today’s match as favourites, are contesting a third Champions League final in five years. The have won the continent’s premier club competitio­n in 1991, 2000 and 2019. Pohang, meanwhile, lifted the title in 1997, 1998 and 2009.

“A Champions League final is always huge, but this game is extra special,” Gomis told fifa. com. “We both have three titles, so whoever wins this will be Asia’s most successful club.

“Pohang are obviously a very good team, but I’m very confident we’ll win. We have very good players, a very strong team and are in very good form. And we will be playing in Riyadh.”

Now managed by Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim, Hilal will no doubt be eager to make up for last year’s disappoint­ment, when they exited the Champions League at the group stages after a Covid-19 outbreak meant they could not field a team.

Gomis, 36, joined Hilal in 2018 and quickly became one of the most popular players in the club’s history. He has scored 112 goals in 143 matches, with six coming in this year’s Champions League.

“I’ve been here over three years and it couldn’t have gone much better,” he said. “We’ve won two Saudi championsh­ips, the Champions League, we’re in another final.

“I’ve played in France, in England, in Turkey, but the Al Hilal fans are very passionate. Football means everything to them. The support we get is absolutely incredible.”

Gomis added: “The Al Hilal fans give me power. I’m 36, but I don’t feel 36. I still have so much ambition. I feel great physically. I feel like a lion.”

Hilal ended their long hunt for a third Asian crown two years ago, with Gomis playing an integral role

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