Pain of 2014 loss still hurts Hilal’s players
Pain of 2014 loss still hurts Hilal’s players
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.
‘Welcome back’: Alex Ferguson at United game for first time since brain operation
- Ferguson, who managed United for 27 years, was left fighting for his life after being rushed to hospital in May
- Ferguson, speaking to MUTV, admitted it was a big moment to be back at the stadium where one of the stands is named after him
MANCHESTER: Alex Ferguson made an emotional return to Manchester United on Saturday for the first time since the club’s legendary former manager had emergency brain surgery.
Ferguson, who managed United for 27 years, was left fighting for his life after being rushed to hospital in May.
But the 76-year-old Scot has made a good recovery and a picture of Ferguson arriving at Old Trafford ahead of United’s Premier League clash with Wolves was posted on United’s official Twitter account on Saturday.
The picture’s caption read: “Welcome back to Old Trafford, Sir Alex.”
Ferguson, speaking to MUTV, admitted it was a big moment to be back at the stadium where one of the stands is named after him in recognition of his incredible achievements with United.
“I’m really good. Obviously it’s been a long journey and I’m gradually making steps forward, doing what my son tells me and what the doctors tell me, so, yeah, I’m really good,” he said.
“I’m a bit nervous, to be honest with you, maybe a bit tense really because I think my last game was Arsenal back in April. It was a long time but it’s great to be back and I just hope we get a win today.
“It’s great to go back to the stadium and it’s going to be quite emotional for me when the game starts, things like that. It had to happen some time and I’ve been looking forward to it. The important thing was getting the right time and the right rest before coming to a game.
“It’s bound to be emotional. Particularly when I take my seat in the box. That will be something, you know. I’ll be glad when it gets over and the game starts and I can enjoy it.”
Asked about the messages of support he had received, Ferguson added: “It was unbelievable.
“There were thousands of cards, and they kept arriving at Salford Royal Hospital. I’d left by that time but they kept coming and kept coming. The number of emails, texts and personal cards to the house, it was just amazing. It really was.
“I’m overcome by it and overwhelmed by it. I think, if you remember, I did the message to thank the people who had taken the time to send me messages. It was really important to do that.
“Some of the doctors are here (as special guests) who did the operation and I thought it was the right thing to do. It’s great to be back.”
United also posted a message on their Twitter feed encouraging fans attending Saturday’s game to be in their seats 15 minutes before the 3pm kick-off “as we prepare to honor Sir Alex’s return.”
Ferguson, who retired in 2013, won 38 trophies during a 26-year spell in charge of United, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues.
Prior to that he won 11 trophies with Aberdeen.