Al-Hilal beats Pohang for 4th Asian Champions League title

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Nasser Al-Dawsari’s goal after just 16 seconds helped Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal clinch a record fourth Asian Champions League title with a 2-0 win over South Korea’s Pohang Steelers in Tuesday’s final.

Immediately after kick off, Al-Dawsari picked up a loose ball just inside the Pohang half and advanced to unleash a fierce shot from outside the area that flew into the top corner of the net in front of 50,000 home fans. Moussa Marega doubled the lead in the second half.

“We are the best team in Asia and we have worked hard to get here,” Al-Hilal captain Salman Al-Faraj said. “It was a tough game against a good team. We have been together a long time and we are delighted to win the title again after winning it in 2019.”

Pohang, a three-time Asian champion that has been struggling domestically this season, had its best chance 10 minutes into the game when midfielder Sin Jin-ho hit the bar with a shot from outside the area and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf saved Lim Sang-hyub’s follow-up from the rebound.

“It would have been a more interesting game had that gone in and not hit the bar,” said Pohang coach Kim Ki-dong, who was a player in 2009 when the Steelers last lifted the title. “We weren’t able to follow our game plan as we conceded so early but Al-Hilal has many good players and played a good game.”

Al-Hilal controlled most of the game, thanks in part to Brazilian playmaker Matheus Pereira, and got the second goal in the 63rd minute. Bafetimbi Gomis freed Marega in the area and the former FC Porto striker’s low shot beat goalkeeper Lee Jun.

Pohang struggled to find a way through the Al-Hilal backline and its best chance in the second half came as Al-Mayouf missed a looping cross but Jeon Min-gwang’s subsequent shot from close range was blocked.

“When you concede a goal that early in the game, you are always going to be against it,” Pohang’s Australian defender Alex Grant said. “We knew coming into the game that it was going to be tough as they have great quality players. They were the better team.”

Al-Hilal secured a place at the Club World Cup, which will be played early next year in nearby United Arab Emirates. The field for the seven-team FIFA tournament also includes European champion Chelsea, CONCACAF Champions League winner Monterrey of Mexico and African champion Al Ahly of Egypt.

A Brazilian team will also be at the event with the Copa Libertadores final on Saturday being contested by Palmeiras and Flamengo.

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