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.
LIVE: Spain 1-1 Morocco - Spain strike back after early Khalid Boutaïb goal
10.35PM: That sums up the eveing so far for Spain. They pass the ball around but without much cutting edge, Ramos is forced to hit the ball high and wide from 30 yards. That cannot and wil not hurt Morocco.
10.33PM: A sign of just how well Morocco have played is that Diego Costa has not had a kick all game. The former Chelsea striker makes way after a frustrating 70 minutes for Iago Aspas. Thiago Alcantara also comes off, Marco Asensio replaces him.
10.28PM: Spain are seeing most of the possession but taking too many touches and moving the ball around too slowly. As it stands they will finish second in the group and face Uruguay in the second round...
HAPPY MOROCCO FANS: The Atlas Lions supporters have every reason to be smiling, their team is giving Spain a real game here.
10.19PM: Great goaline clearance from Morcco. Isco's header was goal-bound with the keeper beaten. But Romain Saïss somehow rises to nod it away. From the resulting corner Pique, who is lukcy to still be on the pitch, heads just wide. We're not sure how this match is still 1-1.
MOROCCO HIT THE POST: What a strike from Amrabat, just outside the area on the righthand side the Watford man hits a sweet shot which beats De Gea all ends up, deserved to go in but hits the upright. So, so close. Nervous times for Spain.
10.08PM: Football fans have warmed to the Atlas Lions.
10.03PM: A good start to the second period for Morocco, once again Spain are half asleep in defence and the Atlas Lions are seeing a lot of the ball. That results in Pique handling the ball on the edge of the box, for some reason the ref does not see the infringment and play continues. Good signs, though, for the North Africans.
SECOND-HALF STARTS: A key 45 minutes coming up here for Spain and Morocco. Spain know they have to win to get Russia in the next round, not an easy task but an easier one than Uruguay who they will face if they finish second. Morocco will want to finish the tournament with a result. They have played better thatn their results so far and will want to avoid three straight defeats.
HALF-TIME: A mixed half for Morocco - they are creating chances and causing Spain problems in attack, But when without the ball they are under constant pressure, as the three yellow cards illustrate. Can they keep out Iniesta and Co. in the next 45 minutes? As it stands both Portugal and Spain are going thought, with Portugal beating Iran 1-0. A crucial next half coming up.
SPAIN STRIKE: Iniesta and Isco celebrate the much-deserved equalizer.
9.42PM: They may have been defending for long periods of this half, but they have always been comfortable on the ball and when they have got the chance to attack they have. A very well-worked move down the left ends with Ziyech having a decent shot from outside the box. They are doing themselves and their fans proud here.
HISTORY MAKER: Take a bow Boutaib!
9.33PM: Busquets has a great chance for Spain but heads wide from a corner. The Spainish are trying to turn the screw here, it's important Morocco get to half-time still level or you worry Spain may run away with it. Important nxt 10 minutes coming up.
9.30PM: Spain, as expected, are seeing alot of the ball, while Morocco are seeing several yellow cards. The Morocco captain Moubarak Boussoufa rowing with the ref makes him the third Atlas Lion to go into the book — it's looking unlikely that Morocco will end this one with 11.
BRILLIANT BOUTAIB: The moment the Moroccan striker shocks Spain
9.23PM ANOTHER GREAT CHANCE FOR MOROCCO: Schoolboy defending by Spain gifts Boutaib another clear run-in on goal, De Gea does brilliantly to save and spare his side's blushes. Spain are being very adventurous here, there will be more chances you fancy for the Atlas Lions.
9.17PM GOAL FOR SPAIN: That goal has given Spain a wake-up call. They come straight back. Iniesta atones for his mistake with a neat interchange with Diego Costa, before pulling back for Isco to finish from close range. Lovely goal.
9.12PM GOAL FOR MOROCCO! Two of Spain's most experience players, Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta, both dithered on teh halfway line gifting the ball to Khalid Boutaïb who had a clean run in on goal. If he was nervous he didn't show it as he coolly slotted home past David de Gea. What a response!
9.05PM: It has been a bright star for Spain, they are definitely not taking Morocco lightly. The Noerth Africans are chaing shadows at the moment.
KICK-OFF: We're under way in Kaliningrad...
9.00PM: Should they lose this match, it will be only the second time Morocco have lost all of their World Cup group matches in a single campaign, having previously done so in 1994.
Whereas Spain have won their final group game in each of the last eight World Cup tournaments, a run stretching back to 1986.
8:50PM: Such is the support for the Atlas Lions in the stadium that is is almost like a home game.
8:40PM: Morocco might be out, but that has not prevented plenty of their supporters showing up here in Kaliningrad.
8:35PM: Starting line-ups...
David De Gea; Dani Carvajal, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta; Isco, Thiago Alcantara, David Silva; Diego Costa
Coach: Fernando Hierro (ESP)
Monir El-Kajoui; Achraf Hakimi, Manuel Da Costa, Ghanem Saiss, Nabil Dirar; Noureddine Amrabat, Mbark Boussoufa, Karim El-Ahmadi, Younes Belhanda, Hakim Ziyach; Khalid Boutaib
Coach: Herve Renard (FRA)
Tonight's referee is Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan.
8.30PM: So, after the dramatic late winner for Saudi Arabia in Group A, we move our attention to Morocco's final game of the 2018 World Cup. The Atlas Lions cannot progress, but could make like difficult for the former world champions Spain. The Spanish know nothing but a win will guarantee their progress at this tournament, and have named a strong side in their quest to get through.
Kick off is 20:00 KSA time.