Al Hilal fire themselves to the Club World Cup
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A 3-0 aggregate win sees Saudi Arabian side claim AFC Champions League crown
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Al Hilal became the final team to book their place at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019™ as they secured a 3-0 aggregate win over Urawa Red Diamonds to triumph in the AFC Champions League final.
The Saudi Arabian club gained revenge for their defeat in the final against the same opponent two years ago, clinching their first Champions League trophy since the inaugural tournament in 2003. Salem Al Dawsari and Bafetimbi Gomis' second-half goals clinched the 2-0 away win to secure the gold medals Al Hilal craved. They will now take on African champions Esperance Sportive de Tunis on 14 December.
Arriving in Saitama with a one-goal lead, handed to them by Andre Carillo's first-leg effort, meant Al Hilal could have rested on their laurels, but through some well-organised pressing they looked the more dangerous of the two finalists.
Even so, a slick move orchestrated by Shinzo Koroki and Kazuki Nagasawa crafted the clearest opening of the first half. The latter's inch-perfect lay-off teed up a fierce shot from Takahiro Sekine that Ali Albulayhi blocked spectacularly. Beyond that, gilt-edged chances were at a premium.
Into the second half, with Urawa committing more and more bodies forward - though chances still proved elusive - Al Hilal struck a decisive blow. A slick move found Sebastian Giovinco all alone on the left side of the box to square for the unmarked Al Dawsari, who duly tapped in. It was redemption for the man sent off in their final meeting in 2017.
With Urawa committing all men forward at the death, it was left for Gomis to put the icing on the Saudi cake as he capped off another flowing counter-attack to send his side to Qatar.