Vote for your best ACL2019 Team: Defenders
Kuala Lumpur: The return of the 2020 AFC Champions League is now just weeks away but before this season's Continental campaign resumes, the-AFC.com continues its quest to find out who the fans consider the Best XI from last year's tournament.
Last week we presented the candidates for the 2019 edition's best goalkeeper, and now we shine the spotlight on the players who will make up the backline.
So, here are the 14 players in contention for the four places in defence. Review the nominees and then choose your favourite defenders for this all-star XI in the respective polls.
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Daiki Hashioka – Urawa Red Diamonds
One of the breakthrough stars of the 2019 edition, Daiki Hashioka announced his arrival with a debut brace against Buriram United while an assist in the second leg of the semi-final at Guangzhou Evergrande was even more important. In what was a poor season for Urawa domestically, the youngster's performance on the Continent – a constant threat going forward and solid at the back – was among the highlights for Reds fans as the Saitama side reached a third final.
Mohammed Al Burayk – Al Hilal
Mohammed Al Burayk has been a key cog in Al Hilal's fluid attacking game for many a year and once more he excelled going forward and proved resolute at the back. It was the Saudi international's cross that led to Andre Carrillo's goal in the first leg of the final and the clean sheet at the other end ensured the Riyadh giants travelled to Japan in a better position than two years previously. The rest is history.
Mohammed Barqesh – Al Wahda
As with the majority of of effective full-backs in the modern game, Mohammed Barqesh is as comfortable in opposition territory as he is in his own half, although three tap-ins from inside the opponents' six-yard box is proof of just how much the Al Wahda man likes to bomb forward. Barqesh played in all eight of the Abu Dhabi team's games as they reached the knockout rounds for the first time since 2007.
Zhang Linpeng – Guangzhou Evergrande
One of the most consistent performers in the AFC Champions League over the years, Zhang Linpeng was once again excellent as he helped Guangzhou Evergrande reach the semi-finals for the first time since their title-winning campaign of 2015. The China PR international made more successful tackles than any other player and, as ever, remained a threat pushing forward down the right flank.
Tomoaki Makino – Urawa Red Diamonds
Urawa's charismatic centre-back Tomoaki Makino was dominant in his side's backline once more, winning more duels and aerial duels than any other defender, while no other player recorded more than his six clean sheets. The Hiroshima native was perhaps at his best in the semi-finals, keeping Guangzhou Evergrande's array of attacking talent quiet to record a pair of shutouts and secure a place in his second final in three years.
Ali Al Bulayhi – Al Hilal
An ever-present in Al Hilal's victorious campaign, Ali Al Bulaihi more than played his part in his side's maiden AFC Champions League title. A physical presence at the back who's strong in the air and good on the ground, the central defender got better as the tournament progressed with clean sheets in both legs of the final an excellent effort. Interestingly, Al Bulaihi netted two goals, both of which were with his chest following corners from the left.
Park Ji-soo – Guangzhou Evergrande
Brought in to replace his outgoing compatriot Kim Young-gwon, Korean Park Ji-soo fitted seamlessly into the Guangzhou backline with his assured performances key to his team's success. A fine reader of the game and composed in possession, the centre-back made more successful passes and more blocks than any other defender as he showed he could help launch attacks from the back and thwart the opposition.
Tarek Salman – Al Sadd
Another player who played every minute of every game, Tarek Salman is one of the Aspire Academy graduates who continues to excel, starting 2019 by winning the AFC Asian Cup and only just missing out on a place in the AFC Champions League final towards the end of the year. Excellent is possession and a player who likes to keep the ball on the ground, Salman is an ideal fit for an Al Sadd side that were pleasing on the eye but ultimately fell just short.
Ziyad Al Sahafi – Al Ittihad
Three goals in seven games is a fine return for a defender as Ziyad Al Sahafi helped Al Ittihad progress to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2014. A towering presence in the air, the Jeddah native netted in the last 16 win over Zobahan as well as the quarter-final defeat to Al Hilal, while his performances on the Continent saw him earn his first call-up for the Saudi national team.
Hayato Araki – Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Hayato Araki made his AFC Champions League debut in 2019 and he can look back on an impressive introduction to Continental football. Sanfrecce Hiroshima conceded just four goals in the group stage and their young centre-back netted a match-winning goal away at Daegu FC as the J1 League side booked their place in the last 16 for just the second time in five attempts.
Yasser Al Shahrani – Al Hilal
Al Hilal full-back Yasser Al Shahrani has been among the top-performing defenders in the AFC Champions League for many a year and in 2019 he deservedly got his hands on the trophy. A constant source of energy down the flanks who provides width to the Riyadh side's attacks, the Dammam native shone in the final, keeping Urawa's dangerous Daiki Hashioka quiet down the right side and recording a pair of clean sheets.
Abdelkarim Hassan – Al Sadd
It's little surprise to see Abdelkarim Hassan back in contention this time round as Al Sadd reached a second successive semi-final – his threat going forward again highlighted by the fact that no defender completed more dribbles. The left-back's showreel moment came in thumping home a free-kick in the last 16 against Al Duhail, although the low point was his dismissal in the first leg of the semi-final against Al Hilal and ultimately missing the return meeting.
Yu Hai – Shanghai SIPG
In a side so noteworthy for its attacking flair, the left foot of Yu Hai again proved a key weapon in their armoury as the China PR international created three of Shanghai SIPG goals en route the the quarter-finals. As crucial as he is going forward, though, Yu was also in fine form at the back, posting a 100 percent tackle success rate in the nine games he appeared in.
Kim Jin-su – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
One of the finest left-backs on the Continent, Korea Republic international Kim Jin-su was yet again impressive down Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' left side, creating more chances (18) and delivering more successful crosses (11) than any other defender in the tournament. He was also part of a backline that advanced from the group stage with the best defensive record (three goals conceded) before penalty shootout elimination to Shanghai SIPG in the last 16.
The polls have ended. Thank you for voting. The Best XI chosen by fans and the best XI based on the 2019 statistics will be announced in mid-September.
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