Pain of 2014 loss still hurts Hilal’s players

Mohammed Al-Shalhoub in action during training at the Saitama Stadium in Japan. (AFP)
Updated 25 November 2017
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Pain of 2014 loss still hurts Hilal’s players

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.


Jurgen Klopp calls on Mohamed Salah to fire Liverpool into Champions League second round against Napoli

Updated 13 min 47 sec ago
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Jurgen Klopp calls on Mohamed Salah to fire Liverpool into Champions League second round against Napoli

  • Liverpool need to beat Napoli to have a chance of making it to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
  • Salah fresh off a hat-trick is the key man, claims Reds boss.

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has called on Mohamed Salah to maintain his current fine form and fire Liverpool into the knockout stages of the Champions League.
By his own high standards the Egyptian ace had a slow start to the season. Coming off the back of his record-breaking campaign last time around — when he scored 44 goals for the Merseyside club in all competitions — Salah had been quiet in comparison, scoring seven times in the Premier League up until Saturday’s 4-0 win
at Bournemouth.
But a brilliant hat-trick against the Cherries kicked into touch any worries that he would struggle to hit the same heights again, and Klopp is only too aware his return to form comes at the perfect time with Liverpool who must beat Napoli tonight to make the Champions League knockout stages.
The Reds cannot afford defeat against the Italians, and know that even a 2-1 win could see them eliminated.
The Liverpool manager said that he was never worried the Egyptian would struggle to find the form of last season and has called on Salah to find his scoring boots once again to help ensure his side see off the Italians.
“I’m interested in the moment, but I never judge it because the moment is just a little part of all what we do,” Klopp said. “So I was not for one second worried.
“If you score 10 goals in the first five games, everyone would say: ‘It will happen again.’ But if you score 39 (in a season), it would be: ‘Yeah, but it’s not 41.’
“What Mo did (against Bournemouth) was just exceptional. I don’t know at the moment a lot of players who would have scored these goals.”
The hat-trick against Bourne-mouth took Salah’s tally to 10 Premier League strikes this season as he also became the fastest Liverpool player to reach 40 goals in the competition after he reached the milestone in his 52nd match.
The Merseyside club, who were beaten by Real Madrid in the final last season, could do with another Salah masterclass — they need either a 1-0 victory or to win by two clear goals to progress to the last 16.
“We have the chance with a specific result still to go through when this Champions League campaign so far was not really ours,” Klopp said.
“We have to be on our toes — it’s a big one, our people know that and I know they are already warming up.”
Liverpool’s Champions League campaign has never really got going this season. An impressive 3-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the first match promised much better than to be going into the final clash knowing that even victory may not be enough. Defeats away at Napoli (1-0) and, surprisingly, Red Star Belgrade (2-0) dented any hope of quick qualification from one of the tougher groups.
A 2-1 defeat to PSG in the French capital last time out has left the group and Liverpool’s participation in the second round on a knife edge.
“We were not good at Napoli, so first of all we would like to show we are better than that,” said Klopp. “So we also have to call again on Anfield, and they should help us because that is a massive game, a really massive game.
“Last year we did nearly everything to get qualified for that tournament again, because we had the final in the background but we also knew we had to do the job in the league.”
But with Salah scoring and playing the clash at home, Klopp is hopeful Liverpool can get the result needed. “They know as well it will be tough, but they are strong and we need to be very strong,” the German said.