Al-Hilal’s key man Khribin backed to fire his side to glory

Al-Hilal's Syrian forward Omar Khribin (C) celebrates scoring his first goal, and his team's equalizer, during the Asian Champions League final football match between Japan's Urawa Reds and Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal on November 18, 2017, at King Fahd Stadium in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 25 November 2017
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Al-Hilal’s key man Khribin backed to fire his side to glory

SAITAMA, Japan: Al-Hilal are relying on star Syrian striker Omar Khribin to deliver victory in the 2017 Asian Champions League final at Urawa Reds.
The first leg in Riyadh ended 1-1 with Khribin, who almost led Syria into the 2018 World Cup, scoring his 10th goal of the tournament. His strike eight minutes before half-time canceled out an early opener from Urawa’s Rafael Silva.
Al-Hilal, beaten in the 2014 final by Western Sydney Wanderers, dominated but could not take an advantage into today’s return match in Japan.
With Urawa scoring an away goal in Riyadh, it puts the emphasis back on Al-Hilal to score at Saitama Stadium.
With Khribin among the most in-form strikers in Asia and the leading goalscorer in the continental tournament, midfielder Mohammed Al-Shalboub is confident of victory. “Ever since joining up, he has put in so much effort and will never accept defeat,” Al Shalboub was quoted as saying by the Asian Football Confederation.
“He is very important for us. I think he deserves to be AFC Player of the Year.”
Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz has been linked with the national team job in Saudi Arabia after the dismissal of fellow Argentine Edgardo Bauza, but says he is focused only on the Champions League final.
“This is the final and you expect the final to be tough,” Diaz said.
“We showed in the first leg that we can make chances and we will be looking to do the same in the second.” Al-Hilal, who won the Asian Club Championship in 1991 and 2000 but are yet to win the Asian Champions League that was established in 2003, will be without star Eduardo.
The Brazilian midfielder tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first leg and is likely to be replaced by Saudi international Nawaf Al-Abed. Urawa, playing in front of a sell-out crowd of over 60,000 fans in Saitama, is aiming to repeat its 2007 triumph and to bring the title to Japan for the first time since 2008.
Coach Takafumi Hori has promised an improvement in his team’s display from the first leg in Riyadh.
“I’m happy that we got a 1-1 draw away from home — it’s a good result for us against a very good Al-Hilal side,” Hori said.
“They dominated possession and applied a lot of pressure on us, but our players defended well, and I am thankful to them.  But the second game will be something different in front of our own supporters. We will put in a different performance.”
The winner will represent Asia in the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup next month.


River edge out Boca after extra time to win Copa Libertadores

River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after the first leg finished 2-2. (AFP
Updated 10 December 2018
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River edge out Boca after extra time to win Copa Libertadores

  • River Plate came from behind to beat bitter Argentine rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 in extra time
  • The fixture postponed on three occasions and then relocated from Buenos Aires to Madrid

MADRID: River Plate won the Copa Libertadores by beating their fiercest rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 after extra time on Sunday, bringing an end to a final tainted by violence and moved more than six thousand miles away from Argentina.
Boca took the lead through Dario Benedetto but Lucas Pratto equalized before Juan Quintero and Gonzalo Martinez scored in extra time, aided by Wilmar Barrios being sent off, to win a fittingly dramatic contest for River.
It means River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after the first leg finished 2-2 and the club reclaim the trophy they had last won in 2015, lifting it for the fourth time in their history.
“The only thing I feel is sadness for not winning the cup and giving it to the people of Boca,” Boca coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said.
“It is difficult to say to people that we haven’t won, especially those that made so much effort to come from Argentina.”
Postponed on three occasions and then relocated from Buenos Aires to Madrid, the supporters of these two great clubs showed in the Santiago Bernabeu why this fixture had been billed as one of football’s greatest ever.
Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin were among the 62,200 in attendance.
But, despite the bouncing huddles in the streets, the plumes of blue and red smoke, the swinging scarves, fluttering flags and fans that were chanting in their seats three hours before kick-off, there was nothing to extinguish the lingering sense of regret.
There was no repeat of the scenes that cast a shadow over Argentinian football and saw the original game at River’s El Monumental on November 24 postponed, when around 50 fans attacked Boca’s team bus and left some of their players injured.
Madrid, which will also host the Champions League final in June, was chosen in part because of its record of hosting major events and the security, which included around 2,500 police officers, did its job before kick-off.
Fans were separated into zones either side of the stadium and had to go through checks even to enter the area immediately surrounding it.
The shame was only that the operation was not as thorough 15 days ago and that a minority decided to take advantage.
Both clubs were allocated 25,000 tickets, with 5,000 of those reserved for residents of Argentina. The fear had been most of those buying would be tourists and neutrals, but the atmosphere suggested different.
Both teams had initially refused to play in Spain’s capital but as the losers, Boca’s sense of grievance will now become more entrenched.
They felt River were responsible for the chaos two weeks ago and should have forfeited the trophy. They took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the appeal was rejected on Saturday.
When the players shuffled out two hours before kick-off to inspect the pitch, they held up their phones to capture the thousands already inside and the view of a stadium most of them had never played in before.
The cheers grew louder when they came out for kick-off. Then there were whistles as the teams swapped ends and each were greeted by their opponent’s fans behind the goal.
Jonatan Maidana was playing for Boca when they last won the Copa Libertadores 11 years ago and, now in the red and white of River, he almost gave his former club an early lead, slicing just over his own crossbar.
The game lacked quality but came alive one minute before half-time. Nahitan Nandez’s superb pass split two River defenders and Benedetto kept a cool head, guiding into the corner, before taunting the beaten Gonzalo Montiel.
River had been inferior but improved. Their first real attacking move was also a brilliant one as Leonardo Ponzio and Quintero exchanged passes before the latter pulled back for Pratto to sweep home.
The game meandered toward full-time and seemed destined for penalties until Barrios was shown a second yellow card for a tackle on Exequiel Palacios and soon after, Quintero struck.
It was a goal worthy of winning the tournament, as he collected 25 yards out, glanced up and whipped the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.
Leonard Jara almost snatched a late Boca goal but his shot nicked the outside of the post. Then, with Boca’s goalkeeper Esteban Andrada up for a corner, River added the final touch.
Martinez ran the ball into the empty net and River’s substitutes and staff were already pouring onto the pitch to begin the celebrations.