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Pain of 2014 loss still hurts Hilal’s players

Mohammed Al-Shalhoub in action during training at the Saitama Stadium in Japan. (AFP)
LONDON: Al-Hilal midfielder Mohammad Al-Shalhoub has vowed his teammates will attack Urawa Red Diamonds from the start of their AFC Champions League final second leg today.
Ramon Diaz’s side were on top for much of last week’s first leg in Riyadh, but an imperious display from Urawa Reds goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa kept the scores at 1-1.
Nishikawa was named man of the match for his efforts in thwarting the Saudi giants, who must now score in Saitama if they are to have any chance of lifting the trophy. And veteran midfielder Al-Shalhoub, 36, is promising an equally attacking display away from home. “It’s true, we could have got a better result because we had so many chances in the game but we weren’t able to take them,” Al Shalhoub told AFC.com.
“Their goalkeeper played very well on the night and had a big impact on the end result. He saved nearly all the chances we created but I hope in the second leg on Saturday we will have more luck and be able to score more.
“But we will be confident for the match and we won’t change our style of play because we are away from home. We’ll try to control the game and attack from the beginning.”
Al-Shalhoub has been a loyal servant of Al-Hilal, playing for the club for his entire career.
He was part of the squad that won the Asian Club Championship in 2000 — Al-Hilal’s last continental triumph — and also played in the 2014 final defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers.
That agonizing loss is still firmly in Al-Shalhoub’s mind but he believes Al-Hilal’s current crop of players are ready to help the club put the pain of 2014 behind them.
“It’s no secret that we felt very down after that final, but then the players promised each other that they would return to the final and win the cup,” he said.
“We tried hard in the past two years but we were unsuccessful, but this time we will give it absolutely everything we have to become champions of Asia.”
It won’t be easy for Al-Hilal, given that no team has beaten Urawa Reds at their Saitama Stadium in the Asian Champions League since May 2015 — a 10-match undefeated streak.
The Japanese side have also been free-scoring at home in this season’s competition, netting 20 goals in just six games. It promises to be quite some game.

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