Lucescu pays tribute to his Al Hilal heroes
Saitama: Razvan Lucescu hailed his Al Hilal players as the club from Saudi Arabia ended their AFC Champions League hoodoo with a win over Urawa Red Diamonds at Saitama Stadium on Sunday that ensured the trophy returns with them to Riyadh.
Al Hilal avenged their defeat against the same opponents two years ago to become the first club from Saudi Arabia to secure the title since Al Ittihad claimed the second of their back-to-back crowns in 2005 to erase bitter memories of previous final failure.
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“I know very well to win such a competition there is the need to work with a lot of people and everybody in the club and in the team and every player has given a contribution to this fantastic performance,” said the Romanian.
“Especially, I have to thank my players because they are the heroes and they are the people who have worked a lot to achieve this huge performance and they accepted me always pushing and putting on a lot of pressure and analysing and all the comments.
“You know there is no coach or staff who wins without players. The players are the most important in the team.”
Al Hilal suffered heartbreak in the final of the AFC Champions League on two previous occasions, losing to Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014 before missing out again three years later against Urawa. But there was to be no repeat of those performances on Sunday.
Leading thanks to an Andre Carrillo goal from the first leg, Al Hilal kept Urawa at bay before goals from Salem Al Dawsari, in the 74th minute, and Bafetimbi Gomis in added time ensured Al Hilal won a final at the third time of asking.
“With all respect to our opponents, we were fully confident that we would win this trophy,” said Lucescu. “The first game gave us huge confidence and at the same time our determination, the will from each player which put in all these strong feelings to win this title after such a long period.
“I can’t describe the last 15 minutes. I was living in this period with all this strong belief, but in the moment when we scored (the second goal) I felt nothing could change the situation and I was very happy.”
By guiding Al Hilal to the title, Lucescu follows in the footsteps of his legendary compatriot Anghel Iordanescu, who was at the helm of the team when they won the second of their Asian Club Championship titles in 2000. Then, as now, the opposition was from Japan as Al Hilal defeated Jubilo Iwata at the King Fahd International Stadium.
“Probably Romanians bring a lot of luck to Al Hilal,” he said. “There is a good chemistry between us.”