Kuala Lumpur: The line-up for the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals was decided this week after Al Sadd, Al Hilal, Urawa Red Diamonds and Guangzhou Evergrande emerged victorious.
Fantastic fan support, stand-out performances, and eyes firmly fixed on the prize as the 2019 quarter-finals concluded in exciting style with the second leg matches played out in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Here's the post-match reaction from some of the key men involved.
ACL 2019 SF First Leg Toyota Player of the Week: Bafetimbi Gomis
Kuala Lumpur: Bafetimbi Gomis has been named as the Toyota Player of the Week after the striker scored a brace in Al Hilal's 4-1 victory away at Al Sadd on Tuesday to help his side put one foot into the 2019 AFC Champions League Final.
However, it was far from an ideal start for Gomis in Doha as he inadverently netted past his own 'keeper on 14 minutes to give the hosts the lead. The Frenchman bounced back, though, netting twice in the right goal to steer Al Hilal to a convincing win at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
As well as his double, which came from three shots on target, Gomis also created three chances for his teammates as he earned an 8.7 rating.
From the other side of the continent, Takahiro Sekine(below), came in second in this week’s rankings after the Urawa Red Diamonds winger scored in the Japanese side's 2-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande of China PR.
Saitama: Tomoaki Makino believes that Urawa Red Diamonds’ away goals victory over Shanghai SIPG that saw them advance to the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals can help turn the J.League side’s troubled season around.
The 1-1 draw against the Chinese side in the second leg of the quarter-finals at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday saw Urawa edge through to the last four as the 3-3 aggregate draw proved enough to eliminate Shanghai on away goals.
But two-time Continental champions Urawa have endured a miserable season domestically, having not recorded a J.League win since July 20, as they have slipped dangerously towards the relegation zone.
Quarter-final - 2nd Leg: Guangzhou Evergrande end Kashima Antlers' reign
Kashima: Kashima Antlers’ reign as Asian champions came to end on Wednesday as last year’s winners exited the 2019 AFC Champions League on the away goals rule at the hands of Guangzhou Evergrande after being held to a 1-1 draw by the Chinese Super League leaders at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
With the first leg in Guangzhou having ended scoreless last month, Anderson Talisca’s 40th minute goal proved to be decisive despite Seringho’s equaliser six minutes into the second half as Fabio Cannavaro’s side progressed to the semi-finals.
There they will meet fellow two-time champions Urawa Red Diamonds next month, with the winners meeting either Al Sadd from Qatar or Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in November’s two-legged final.
Saitama: Tsuyoshi Otsuki paid tribute to the influence of his senior players as Urawa Red Diamonds held off Shanghai SIPG to secure their place in the semi-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
A 1-1 draw at Saitama Stadium was enough to earn the two-time champions a place in the last four on the away goals rule after the quarter-final meeting between the sides ended in a 3-3 aggregate draw.
And while Urawa’s two goals in the first leg in Shanghai were key to the victory, Otsuki stressed that the experience shown by the likes of Shusaku Nishikawa and Shinzo Koroki was of vital importance in Reds’ success.
Doha: Al Sadd are determined to seal a place in the 2019 AFC Champions League to show their appreciation to their fans.
With their fans roaring them on at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Monday, the Qatar champions overturned a 2-1 first leg deficit to beat Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr 3-1 to advance to the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate.
Riyadh: Al Ittihad coach José Luis Sierra is optimistic that the Saudi Arabian side will end the season with a title despite Tuesday’s exit from the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League at the hands of domestic rivals Al Hilal.
Sierra saw his side take the lead at King Saud University Stadium through Ziyad Al Sahafi before eventually failing to hold on as Al Hilal stormed to a 3-1 win.