Al Hilal, Pohang set up Riyadh decider

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21 Oct 2021
  • Salem Al Dawsari inspired Al Hilal into another AFC Champions League final

  • Pohang Steelers edged Ulsan Hyundai to reach November’s decider

  • The winners will represent Asia at the FIFA Club World Cup

Pohang Steelers and Al Hilal will collide to decide who become the outright-record four-time Asian club champions. Both edged compatriots in exciting semi-finals to set up an AFC Champions League final showdown on 23 November in Riyadh, from where Al Hilal hail. The winners will represent Asia at the FIFA Club World Cup™, which the FIFA Council today confirmed will be held in the United Arab Emirates in early 2022.

Results

Quarter-finals Al Wadha 1-5 Al Nassr Persepolis 0-3 Al Hilal Jeonbuk Motors 2–3 Ulsan Hyundai (a.e.t.) Pohang Steelers 3-0 Nagoya Grampus Semi-finals Al Nassar 1-2 Al Hilal Ulsan Hyundai 1–1 Pohang Steelers (4-5 on penalties)

The semis

This was a meeting of fierce city rivals who have clashed for over a century, and it didn’t disappoint. Both sides entered the game on the back of emphatic victories in the quarter-finals, and it was Al Hilal who struck first through Malian forward Moussa Marega on 17 minutes. Despite being reduced to ten men on the stroke of half time, however, Al Nassr rallied and drew level shortly after the restart through Anderson Talisca. It could not prevent Al Hilal from emerging victorious, though. Eighteen minutes from time, Salem Al Dawsari’s deflected shot proved enough for them to advance.

Goals, a red card, a penalty shootout… Ulsan Hyundai-Pohang Steelers had all the makings of a semi-final. After a goalless first half, Ulsan took the lead with Yun Illok pouncing on a loose ball to break the deadlock. With the hosts side looking on course for victory, however, the tide turned when they were reduced to ten men following Won Dujae's dismissal. Capitalising on their numerical advantage, Pohang pressed hard, with Alex Grant grabbing a late equaliser to force the game into extra-time. Neither side could find the back of the net in the additional 30 minutes, and in the ensuing penalty shootout, Dave Bulthuis shot over for Ulsan while all five Pohang players hit the target to book their first final in 12 years.

The player

Al Dawsari has been unstoppable in the knockout phase. The 30-year-old sealed Al Hilal’s 2-0 win over Esteghlal in the Round of 16, before opening the scoring against Persepolis in the quarter-finals. He went on to secure a hard-fought victory over Al Nassr in the semis. Al Dawsari is now set for his fourth Champions League final.

The quote

“Once again, the team made me proud. They played well. It was a difficult game, for us but a lot of fans came to support us and it gave us strength. I won the [AFC Champions League title] in 2009 as a player for Pohang, and now as the coach I am more than happy to see us in the final." Kim Gidong, Pohang Steelers coach

Did you know?

Al Hilal reached their fourth Champions League final in seven years, having also made it in 2014, 2017 and 2019.