Al Ahli coach Olaroiu hails team following dramatic AFC Champions League win over Al Hilal

Al Ahli coach Olaroiu hails team following dramatic AFC Champions League win over Al Hilal
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Published October 22nd, 2015 - 05:23 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Players of UAE's Al-Ahli celebrate at the end of the AFC Champions League semi final football match against Saudi's Al-Hilal on October 20, 2015 in Dubai. Al-Ahli won 3-2. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI
Players of UAE's Al-Ahli celebrate at the end of the AFC Champions League semi final football match against Saudi's Al-Hilal on October 20, 2015 in Dubai. Al-Ahli won 3-2. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI

Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu hailed his players as heroes after their dramatic AFC Champions League win over Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal late on Tuesday.

The Red Knights will play in their first Asian final against China’s Guangzhou Evergrande next month after Kwon Kyung-won scored an injury-time winner at the Rashid Stadium, with his strike giving the Dubai club a 3-2 win on the night and a 4-3 aggregate victory.

Lima and Everton Ribeiro put the hosts in control of the tie with first half goals, but last season’s runners-up Al Hilal — who Olaroiu coached between 2007 and 2009 — struck back through Ailton and Carlos Eduardo, giving the Saudi side the advantage on the away goals rule.

But Kwon had the final say as he tucked home a loose ball in the 94th minute, much to the delight of a packed stadium.

“When I came one and a half hours early, the stadium was full and I was thinking that the ground is too small to hold all the supporters. This is football and it should be like this all the time,” Olaroiu told media at the post-match conference.

“I am a happy man tonight as my players are the real heroes. They have earned their place in the final despite all the problems we have faced. Now we have qualified and taken one more step in writing a new page in history for this club.

“For me it was a little bit difficult to win against Al Hilal as I know all the players after working with them a few years back. Sometimes you need luck and this time the luck was on our side. We deserved to qualify to the final and it is the players who deserve all the congratulations for the way they fought till the end.

“We have a few days off to allow this feeling to sink in. We are always going to try our best to make the dream a reality. This is what I can say right now.

“In this entire competition we have played well from the beginning. We were the underdogs [against Al Hilal], but we compensated for the lack of experience by showing a lot of attitude, a big spirit and a huge heart.

“It is now left up to the players whether they want to take that one last step and win the crown.”

South Korean midfielder Kwon, meanwhile, was thrilled that his “special goal” — his first of the season and only his second since signing for Al Ahli in February — made all the difference.

“I am thrilled because we have managed to achieve one more step towards our goal of becoming Asian champions,” Won told Gulf News.

“I have scored only two goals for my team, and this one is so special because we can now think of an AFC Champions League final. I want to thank everyone for being there for this team. I want to thank my teammates, my coach and other staff and all the fans who came out to support us.

“This is such a fantastic result for us and hopefully we will go all the way and be crowned champions.”

© Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

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