Al Duhail on verge of greatness
Kuala Lumpur: Following nine consecutive victories in the AFC Champions League, Al Duhail are on par with Ulsan Hyundai and one step away from writing history, join the-AFC.com as we summon up the winning streaks of the two giants.
Ulsan Hyundai recorded a historic run of nine successive wins in the AFC Champions League six years ago and ended up taking the title home.
Now Al Duhail have matched the high of the Korean side, yet the teams took different paths in setting their records, and the Qatari club could well go on and extend their run.
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The team based in Ulsan kicked-off their 2012 campaign with a hard-fought home victory against Beijing Guoan, as Kim Shin-wook and Go Seul-ki bagged the goals that sealed the 2-1 win.
The following two fixtures saw Ulsan stumble with draws against FC Tokyo and Brisbane Roar.
In Tokyo, they came from behind twice to rescue a 2-2 draw and down in Australia, Lee Jae-Seong's second-half goal cancelled out Nick Fitzgerald's opener for Roar.
Kim Ho-kon's troops kicked the dust off and managed to walk triumphal out of their remaining three games in the group to finish on top and unbeaten with 14 points.
On the other hand, Al Duhail have brought an entertaining brand of football to this season's campaign with Youssef El Arabi scoring for fun while Youssef Msakni and Nam Tae-hee have excelled as the supporting cast.
However, it was the attacking exploits of holding midfielder Karim Boudiaf that earned the Qatari side their first six points of the campaign.
Boudiaf netted twice in the 3-1 win over Zobahan and scored the second of Al Duhail's three goals in a narrow 3-2 win against Al Wahda on Matchday Two.
Al Duhail demonstrated their killer scoring instinct, scoring thrice for a third game running, with El Arabi registering his second brace to help the team to a 3-2 home win against PCF Lokomotiv.
El Arabi made it six goals for the campaign and four wins on the trot in the reverse fixture, while Matchday Five was the first time Al Duhail failed to score multiple goals.
Ismael Mohammed's goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win against Zobahan.
Another 1-0 win rounded off the results, ensuring Djamel Belmadi's men became just the third team in AFC Champions League history to end the group stage with 18 points.
In their first knockout tie, Ulsan Hyundai emerged victorious in a five-goal thriller against Kashiwa Reysol with Kim and Lee Keun-ho getting on the scoresheet.
Kim broke the deadlock for the home side, later on Leandro Domingues equalised for the team from Japan.
However an own goal from Naoya Kondo and a winner from Lee decided the tie, as the added-time goal from Junya Tanaka was merely consolation for the Japanese side.
Ulsan reached their first quarter-final since 2006 and against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, they never looked in danger as they cruised to a 4-0 win in Riyadh off the back of a 1-0 advantage from the first leg at home.
Brazilian striker Rafinha scored three goals over the two games, while Kim and Lee were both on target again, sending Ulsan into the semi-finals.
The Korean side faced Bunyodkor in the semi-finals and despite an early goal for the Uzbek side in the first leg, the deadly trio of Rafinha, Kim and Lee scored another five goals over the two legs as Ulsan made it eight wins in a row.
Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli had beaten city rivals Al Ittihad in the other semi-final, and Ulsan were on a date with history as they hosted the final.
Captain Kwak Tae-hwi opened the scoring with a header, before Rafinha doubled the lead in the second half and Kim Seung-yong blasted the third to grant Ulsan Hyundai their first AFC Champions League title and a record of nine consecutive wins.
In this version, Al Duhail battered Al Ain in the Round of 16, netting eight goals, evenly split between the two legs as El Arabi fired three over the two legs, taking his tally to nine.
Coach Belmadi left the club over the summer and former Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul was appointed as his replacement.
The Tunisian coach made his AFC Champions League debut for the club in the dugout at home against Persepolis in the first leg of the quarter-finals.
Al Duhail walked victorious out of the first leg thanks to a header from Almoez Ali to take a 1-0 lead into the second leg at Azadi Stadium, in the process, they recorded their ninth win in a row, equalling Ulsan's six-year-old record.
Maaloul has previously won the CAF Champions League with Tunisia's Esperance Sportive de Tunis, winning all his ties after the group stage.
Persepolis have not lost any game on their home ground this season, yet a win for Al Duhail next Monday would mark a new record in AFC Champions League history.
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