Al Hilal overcome Xavi’s Al Sadd to reach AFC final

Hilal’s midfielder Andre Carrillo fights for the ball with Sadd’s midfielder Gabi during the second leg of the AFC Champions League semifinals football match between Qatar’s Al Sadd and Saudi’s Al Hilal in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

Al Hilal overcome Xavi’s Al Sadd to reach AFC final

  • Athough Xavi’s Al Sadd scored three goals inside four minutes during a frenetic phase of the game in the first half, they fell short to lose 6-5
  • Razvan Lucescu’s men advanced to their third continental final inside six years, having finished runners up in 2014 and 2017

DOHA: Saudi giants Al Hilal survived a huge scare from Qatar’s Al Sadd before advancing to the AFC Champions League final on aggregate on Tuesday, despite crashing to a shock 4-2 defeat in their second-leg encounter.
Having won their semifinal first leg in Doha 4-1 earlier this month, Al Hilal were seemingly comfortable in the knowledge Al Sadd would be required to come up with a special effort to overturn the massive deficit in front of their home fans in Riyadh.
But although Xavi’s Al Sadd scored three goals inside four minutes during a frenetic phase of the game in the first half, they fell short to lose 6-5, much to the relief of the packed crowd at the King Saud University Stadium.
The match even ended on a dramatic note with Al Sadd earning a free kick just outside the penalty area with a few seconds to go in stoppage time.
But Nam Tae-hee’s cracking effort was stopped by Al Hilal goalkeeper Abdulla Al-Maiouf as Razvan Lucescu’s men advanced to their third continental final inside six years, having finished runners up in 2014 and 2017.
It was Al Hilal, however, who struck first in a fast-paced first half with Salem Al-Dawsari scoring from close in the 13th minute to give his side a 5-1 advantage.
The tables were to be turned shortly afterwards though as Akram Afif equalized from the penalty spot in the 17th minute after he was brought down.
Two minutes later Nam produced a fine burst of speed from the center of the field and advanced into the penalty area before passing the ball to Afif.
The star Qatar forward relayed the ball back to Hassan Al-Haydos, who in turn set up Nam with a deft flick and the Korean blasted home from close.
Al Sadd were 3-1 up in the very next minute with Al-Haydos the scorer this time after Yasser Al-Shahrani in the Al Hilal defense failed to tackle a long ball leaving the goalkeeper exposed with pressure from Nam and his compatriot Jang Hyun-soo
The stunned crowd however heaved a collective sigh of relief in the 25th minute when the prolific Batefimbi Gomis latched on to a diagonal pass from Sebastian Giovinco and netted with a half-volley as Al Hilal stretched their aggregate to 6-4.
The second half lacked the urgency of the first period, but Boualem Khoukhi had the Saudis rattled by heading in an Abdulaziz Ansari pass with the match three minutes into stoppage time.
And when Nam’s late free-kick was saved by Al Hilal goalkeeper Al-Maiouf, Al Hilal’s spot in the final was confirmed.
They face the winners of the semifinal between Guangzhou Evergrande and Urawa Red Diamonds, with the first leg of the final taking place in Riyadh on November 9.


Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

Updated 6 min 52 sec ago

Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

  • Games pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak

TOKYO: Tokyo will scrap events marking a year to go until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games, organizers said Friday, citing the “current economic situation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Games have been pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the disease outbreak, though it remains unclear whether even that delay will be sufficient.
Last year, the city and organizers held a series of events to mark the one-year countdown, including unveiling the newly designed medals.
But given the global crisis, organizers ruled out a similar celebration.
“In view of the current economic situation, Tokyo 2020 will not be holding any events to mark the new one year to go milestone for the Games,” the organizers said.
“But we will consider what we can do to show our solidarity with the people.”
The confirmation came after reports in the Japanese media that organizers would scrap the event, fearing it was inappropriate given the global pandemic and the ongoing risk of infection inside Japan.
Kyodo News agency reported that posters and messages of encouragement to athletes might be put up and displayed online instead, adding that the organizing committee felt a more “moderate tone” was appropriate.
A nationwide state of emergency over the virus has been lifted in Japan, but a recent rise in cases in Tokyo has led to fears of a second wave.
The latest reports come after Tokyo’s governor confirmed the city and organizers are looking at ways to scale back next year’s Games.
Japanese media said streamlining plans could involve cutting the number of spectators and reducing participation in the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted an unnamed source as saying that everyone including athletes, officials and spectators would be required to take a test for the virus.
Tokyo 2020 declined to comment on those reports, saying discussions about coronavirus countermeasures would be held “from this autumn onwards.”
Organizers and Tokyo officials face the twin headaches of ensuring the postponed Games can be held safely, given the pandemic, and keeping additional costs to a minimum.
But with the pandemic continuing to rage in much of the world, it remains unclear whether the Games can be held next year.
On Friday, a member of the organizing committee’s executive board said a decision on whether the Games could be held or not would need to be taken in spring.
“I think we need to decide around March next year,” Toshiaki Endo, a former Olympic minister told reporters, denying speculation that the IOC intends to make a decision in October.
IOC chief Thomas Bach said last month that 2021 was the “last option” for holding the Tokyo Games, stressing that postponement cannot go on forever.
He declined to say whether a vaccine was a prerequisite for going ahead with the Olympics, but was lukewarm on the idea of holding them behind closed doors.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it would be “difficult” to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
And Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said the Olympics would have to be canceled if the disease isn’t under control by next year.