Semi-finals 2nd Leg: What They Said
Kuala Lumpur: The semi-finals of the AFC Champions League concluded this week as the identity of the 2019 finalists was revealed: Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal and Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan.
Relief, regrets, and revenge following two rollercoaster matches in Riyadh and Guangzhou. Here's the post-match reaction from some of the key men involved.
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Despite losing the second leg 4-2 to Al Sadd on Tuesday, Al Hilal coach Razvan Lucescu insists the focus should be on their achievement of reaching the 2019 AFC Champions League Final.
"Despite the importance of the match, the two teams played wonderful football. I’m proud of my players who gave their best. We played good football with great ambition and desire and had great dominance in the match.”
Al Sadd coach Xavi praised the performance of his side despite their exit at the semi-final stage.
“After Guangzhou defeated Kashima Antlers in the quarter-finals, Cannavaro said that he believed they could go on and win the tournament. All of our players heard about this and it gave us even more motivation to win this game; I believe his words helped us get the victory."
Shinzo Koroki revealed that Fabio Cannavaro’s confidence that Guangzhou Evergrande would lift the 2019 AFC Champions League was the motivation Urawa Red Diamonds needed to overcome their fellow two-time winners and progress to the final.
“I think there didn’t use to be such a gap between Japanese and Chinese teams but the gap has become wider in the past 20 years. The Japanese have invested a lot of funds in cultivating football players in the past and they have taken the lead with that strategy."
Cannavaro called on Chinese football to learn from the work being done to develop talent in Japan after Guangzhou's exit at the hands of Urawa.
“Sometimes we play very well in the J.League and sometimes not so well in the AFC Champions League, and sometimes it’s to the contrary. We always make the effort to perform well in both competitions, but it’s not easy to do that."
Urawa coach Tsuyoshi Otsuki admitted his side are still struggling for consistency across Continental and domestic competitions after their impressive result in Guangzhou came on the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Oita Trinita in the J.League.
“As they had a lot of shots in the first half, I had to try my best to stay focused and I think I stood up well to the challenge. I thought I played well for the whole game and I enjoyed playing in front of such an incredible atmosphere."
Toyota Player of the Week Shusaku Nishikawa relished the challenge presented by both the Guangzhou attackers and their passionate supporters at Tianhe Stadium.
"I apologise for appearing in this way. I have always taken strength from your support and now I will also regain strength with your criticism and backing."
Al Hilal midfielder Abdullah Otayf started on Tuesday instead of the suspended Mohammed Kanno and was far from his best. The 27-year-old offered an apology for his own and the team's performance.
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