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2021 AFC Champions League (West): What They Said

Kuala Lumpur: After six rounds of fixtures the curtain has come down on the group stage of the 2021 AFC Champions League (West), with eight sides advancing to the knockout rounds and 12 teams exiting the competition. 

With some continental giants falling at the first hurdle and others scraping through in dramatic fashion, looks back at what those involved had to say following an exhilarating two days' of action.

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“The draw pit us against Al Sadd in the last decisive match but we managed to snatch the ticket with our heads held high. When you play against teams who play good football, you can achieve good results. We played against an organised side and such matches are more tactical.”

Al Nassr head coach Mano Menezes believes his side got their tactics just right as a 2-1 victory over Al Sadd SC saw the Riyadh giants leapfrog their Qatari opponents to take top spot in Group D and seal a place in the knockout rounds.

“I must say, when Goa qualified into the group, nobody would have guessed that we would finish third with three points. I’m glad people are noticing us when there are teams like Persepolis, Al Wahda and Al Rayyan."

Clifford Miranda, the assistant head coach for FC Goa who assumed duties following Juan Ferrando’s enforced absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, said he was proud of his players for showing courage against Al Wahda FSCC.

2021 AFC Champions League: FC Goa 0-2 Al Wahda FSCC

“I’ve seen him (Dheeraj Singh) play in some of the games and he is really good and especially today, he saved five or six shots on goal. He deserved my handshake. He’s a very good goalkeeper and I wish him the best of luck because of his injury.

Al Wahda FSCC head coach Henk ten Cate was full of praise for Dheeraj Singh after the 20-year-old FC Goa goalkeeper pulled off a number of stunning saves before having to be withdrawn after picking up an injury.

“We gained three points. I admire the technical staff and their analysis in this. As you have seen, we have rotated our team and changed players based on our needs and played well. We collected seven points in the second half of the competition.

Seven points from their last three games and five clean sheets in a row, Tractor FC head coach Rasoul Khatibi hailed the collective effort of his side after the 2-0 win over Sharjah FC was ultimately enough to see them progress to the last 16 as one of the three best runners-up.

“This result was very important for us all as a team. We produced a perfect attack with two touches that resulted in a goal. Foolad had numerous chances but did not translate them into goals. Thankfully, we have seven points with the result of today’s match."

It's all about taking your chances, according to Al Wehdat's head coach Abdullah Abu Zema, whose side picked up their second successive win after seeing off Foolad Khouzestan FC 2-1 on Thursday. Despite exiting the competition, the Amman club impressed in their maiden AFC Champions League campaign.

2021 AFC Champions League: Al Wehdat 1-0 Foolad Khouzestan FC

"I’m probably the only Iranian player who has won the AFC Champions League, so I look forward to winning it again as a coach."

Having qualified for the Round of 16, Esteghlal coach Farhad Majidi - who won the AFC Champions League in the inaugural edition of the tournament's revamp with Al Ain - has his eyes on the prize.

“We can’t look for reasons behind the defeat or blame anyone. Recently we achieved four consecutive victories and we believed that we were on track to maintain our stable performances but we are back to square one now.”

Al Hilal SFC head coach Rogério Micale admitted their 2-0 defeat against UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli almost cost them a direct entry into the Round of 16 and, although they ultimately qualified as one of three best runner-ups, was a setback.

2021 AFC Champions League: Al Hilal SFC 0-2 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai

“We now have to look ahead and try to improve. We achieved positive results in the AFC Champions League and we must reflect this in our domestic league campaign. I took charge of the team before the tournament and I didn’t have enough chance but now I know the players well and I have a good family."

Following their elimination from the 2021 AFC Champions League, Al Ahli Saudi FC head coach Laurentiu Reghecampf is hopeful that his side can take the positive experience into their Saudi Professional League campaign.

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