TOKYO: Al Hilal won the AFC Asian Champions League for the first time after a a 2-0 win over hosts Urawa Red Diamonds in the final’s second leg gave the Saudi Arabian side a 3-0 aggregate victory in Saitama.
Salem Al Dawsari struck 16 minutes from fulltime from close range to all-but ensure the trophy would return to Saudi Arabia for the first time in 14 years, before Bafetimbi Gomis sealed the win in injury time.
It was Al Hilal’s first Asian Champions League title since the competition was launched in 2002 and their third in the continent’s premier club competition after victories in the Asian Club Championship in 1991 and 2000.
Al Hilal also become the first team from the west of the continent to claim the title since Qatar’s Al Sadd in 2011 and they are the first club from Saudi Arabia to be crowned Asian champions since the second of Al Ittihad’s back-to-back successes in 2005.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg by virtue of a goal from Peru international Andre Carrillo, Al Hilal set out to frustrate the Japanese side with a well-drilled defence that allowed the home team few chances.
Takahiro Sekine should have finished off a fine attacking move down the Urawa left that the wingback started himself while Takuya Aoki’s attempt from distance was high and wide.
Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, who missed the first leg due to suspension, kept his team in the game when he twice denied former Swansea City striker Gomis from close range in the second half while the home side offered little at the other end.
Al Hilal ramped up the pressure as the final whistle approached and, with 16 minutes remaining, Al Dawsari was left with the simplest of finishes.
A flowing move from one side of the pitch to the other unlocked the Urawa defence, before Sebastian Giovinco set up the Saudi international to score.
Gomis then slotted home deep into injury time to put the result beyond doubt and seal victory for Al Hilal.