Super 7 for Al Hilal SFC
Kuala Lumpur: Al Hilal SFC ended a long wait for the AFC Champions League title by winning the 2019 edition on Sunday, firmly re-establishing themselves as the most successful club in Asia.
Al Hilal, with six Continental titles in their trophy cabinet, were already the most successful club in Asia but the Saudi Arabian club had to wait 17 years for their seventh crown.
Al Hilal's first taste of Continental glory - having finished runners-up in 1986 and 1987 - came in 1991 when they won the Asian Club Championship.
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They would have to wait six years for their next Continental honour as the Riyadh-based club - powered by club legends Sami Al Jaber and Yousef Al Thunayan - beat Nagoya Grampus Eight 3-1 in the final of the Asian Cup Winners Cup.
That was quickly followed by the 1997 Asian Super Cup, which sparked a period of dominance which saw Saudi Arabia's most successful club win another three Continental titles.
Al Hilal scored another double in 2000, winning the Asian Club Championship and Asian Super Cup.
The club celebrated winning a sixth Asian title two years later, with the Asian Cup Winners Cup added to their trophy cabinet.
It was the same year the Asian Club Championship was rebranded as the AFC Champions League and Al Hilal immediately set their sights on adding the prestigious title to their collection.
They came close twice, losing in the final of the 2014 and 2017 editions to Australia's Western Sydney Wanderers and Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan respectively.
The heartbreaks and long wait were forgotten on Sunday as Al Hilal defeated Urawa 2-0 in the second leg to win the 2019 AFC Champions League final 3-0 on aggregate.
Victory was richly deserved as Al Hilal not only dominated both legs of the final but also saw off the challenge of the likes of fellow Saudi clubs Ah Ahli Saudi FC and Al Ittihad as well as Qatar champions Al Sadd in the knockout stage en route to winning the 2019 AFC Champions League.
The Al Hilal players celebrated Sunday's triumph with No 7 - indicating the number of Asian titles the club has won - prominently displayed on their jerseys but with their appetites for Asian glory whetted again, more Continental honours could soon follow Asia's most successful clubside.
Photos: Al Hilal SFC, AFP
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