Hashioka: Al Hilal were deserved winners
Saitama: Daiki Hashioka has admitted that Urawa Red Diamonds were beaten by the better team after Al Hilal’s 2-0 win in the second leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League final at Saitama Stadium on Sunday secured a 3-0 aggregate victory to deny the hosts a third title.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Riyadh, the J.League side needed to win to have any chance of lifting the AFC Champions League trophy for the second time in three years, but Al Hilal were on top for large spells of the game, missing a number of chances in the first 70 minutes.
When the visitors’ goal did eventually arrive it was no surprise, with Salem Al Dawsari tapping home in the 74th minute before the tournament’s top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis put the icing on the cake by adding a second in stoppage time as Al Hilal avenged their defeat in the 2017 final at the same venue.
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“We have no choice but to accept this result; I think Al Hilal are a really fantastic team,” admitted Hashioka.
“Bearing that it mind, we know that if we don't improve our level as a team and individual players, then it won't be possible for us to become champions again.
“I’d say individual aspects were the difference between the teams, such as when battling for possession. Al Hilal were really impressive in the way they gave everything in the 50/50s.
“Of course we did as well, but I think we were outdone and I noticed a difference in that respect.”
Having scored twice against Thailand’s Buriram United on his AFC Champions League debut back in March, the loss marked a disappointing end to what has been an excellent campaign for the 20-year-old.
While Hashioka played only a bit-part role in the group stage, he made the right-sided position in the Urawa line-up his own in the knockout phase as he became an integral part of Tsuyoshi Otsuki’s team.
NEW CHAMPIONS! | @REDSOFFICIAL 🇯🇵 0-2 @Alhilal_FC 🇸🇦 (Aggregate 0-3)— #ACLFinal (@TheAFCCL) November 24, 2019
🥳 It's all over at Saitama Stadium. After losing in the 2014 and 2017 finals, Al Hilal are finally champions of Asia once more after a historic 2-0 win.#ACLFinal | #URAvHIL pic.twitter.com/iNUBI4rjwv
Indeed, the Saitama native was arguably Urawa’s standout performer in Riyadh two weeks ago, having earlier assisted Shinzo Koroki’s winning goal in the second leg of the semi-final away at Guangzhou Evergrande.
Urawa will not be a part of the 2020 AFC Champions League after a poor season domestically, but Hashioka is fully aware he has benefited from taking on high-quality opposition on the Continent.
“Al Hilal had a lot of players from the Saudi Arabia national team, so that’s something to measure myself against,” added Hashioka.
“I feel like there are a lot of things I’m still lacking if I want to compete at the highest level, and I have to fine-tune in many areas in order to improve.
“I have to become a player who can make an impact for the team. I have to become an absolutely vital player for the side.”
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