Al-Ain crush Marinos to secure Asian Champions League title

Published May 27, 2024
AL-AIN coach Hernan Crespo raises the winner’s trophy after the second leg of the AFC Champions League final against Yokohama F. Marinos at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.—AFP
AL-AIN coach Hernan Crespo raises the winner’s trophy after the second leg of the AFC Champions League final against Yokohama F. Marinos at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.—AFP

AL AIN: Al-Ain crushed 10-man Yokohama F Marinos 5-1 in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final on Saturday as a rampant Soufiane Rahimi led his team to a 6-3 aggregate win and their first continental title in 21 years.

“It’s really difficult to describe the emotions,” said Al Ain coach Hernan Crespo, who only joined the club in November and was mobbed by jubilant players as he spoke to reporters.

“We deserve this title. Every time we were facing the quarter-finals, semi-finals and even the finals as underdogs,” he said. “At the beginning nobody believed in us and we did it. These guys, these players did something big.”

Rahimi was instrumental in the United Arab Emirates club lifting the trophy for the first time since the inaugural edition in 2003, scoring twice at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and playing a key role throughout the final.

Trailing 2-1 from the opening leg in Yokohama two weeks ago, Al-Ain were level on aggregate in the eighth minute as Rahimi slotted into the bottom corner having raced onto Yahia Nader’s clever back flick of the striker’s own through ball.

The goal was a sign of what was to come from Rahimi as he tormented the Yokohama defence, drawing a foul from Shinnosuke Hatanaka on the halfhour mark that led to Al-Ain’s second, the home side awarded a penalty after a VAR review.

Midfielder Kaku stepped up to score as Marinos goalkeeper William Popp guessed the correct way but was unable to prevent the ball from finding the target in the 33rd minute.

However, the Harry Kewell-coached Japanese side pulled one back to level the aggregate score with five minutes left in the half, Yan Matheus punishing Kouame Kouadio after his mistake to stroke a low, left-foot shot past Khalid Eisa.

But there was to be further drama deep into injury time of an already eventful first half that swung the outcome in Al-Ain’s favour.

Popp was sent off when he felled the on-rushing Soufiane Rahimi deep into injury time of a first-half that stretched to an extraordinary 62 minutes.

Kewell was left fuming at what he called a lack of sportsmanship by Al Ain.

“We play at a level where sportsmanship is supposed to be high. For me, the referee tonight was poor and he allowed certain things to happen. It was never a penalty,” said the Australian.

“So again, we’re going to use this. We’re going to put this into our season. We’re going to put this into every game now that we play, and we’re going to go forward.”

In the 67th minute Rahimi punished substitute goalkeeper Fuma Shirasaka, beating him at his near post with a left-foot strike that put Al-Ain in command of the tie and gave the Moroccan his 13th goal of the campaign.

With a one goal lead and a man advantage, Crespo’s side went for the kill as Kodjo Laba capitalised on a terrible mistake by Shirasaka in the first minute of injury time to slot into an empty net and, four minutes later, he directed the ball in from close range to complete the Japanese side’s misery.—

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Another lynching
Updated 22 Jun, 2024

Another lynching

The chilling alternative to not doing anything — which appears to be the state’s preferred option — is the advent of mob rule.
Tax & representation
22 Jun, 2024

Tax & representation

THE taxation measures outlined in the budget for the incoming fiscal year have triggered a lot of concern among ...
Life of the party?
22 Jun, 2024

Life of the party?

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister...
KP’s ‘power struggle’
Updated 21 Jun, 2024

KP’s ‘power struggle’

Instead of emboldening protesters, CM Gandapur should encourage his provincial subjects to clear their due bills and ensure theft is minimised.
Journalist’s murder
21 Jun, 2024

Journalist’s murder

ANOTHER name has been added to the list of journalists murdered in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Khalil Jibran’s vehicle...
A leaner government?
21 Jun, 2024

A leaner government?

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has reiterated his government’s ‘commitment’ to shutting down ministries...