Salman Al Faraj heralds Al Hilal team spirit in sealing record Asian Champions League win

Saudi Arabians clinched fourth continental crown with 2-0 win against Pohang Steelers in Riyadh

Al Hilal captain Salman Al Faraj has lauded his side’s togetherness as key to the club securing a record fourth Asian Champions League.

The Riyadh giants, contesting a third final in five years, defeated South Korea’s Pohang Steelers 2-0 at their King Fahd International Stadium on Tuesday.

Left-back Nasser Al Dawsari created history with the fastest goal in an Asian Champions League final, putting his team ahead with a fierce strike from range on 16 seconds.

Hilal doubled their advantage just after the hour, when Moussa Marega surged on to Bafetimbi Gomis’ pass to slot home.

With the win, achieved in front of a partisan 50,000 crowd, Hilal added this year’s crown to titles secured in 1991, 2000 and 2019.

Al Faraj, 32, has contested four finals in all with the club, losing in 2014 and 2017 before twin successes in the past three years.

“We are the best team in Asia and we have worked hard to get here,” the Saudi Arabia international 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.

"This success is for the group. A group that works and strives, a group that loves each other, a group together for a long time, and this is the result... two titles in the Asian Champions League. But we deserve it."

The victory marked Leonardo Jardim’s first trophy with Hilal since taking the reins in June. The former AS Monaco manager, still unbeaten with Hilal, became the first Portuguese manager to win Asia’s premier club competition.

"I am proud of the team, they are a fantastic group of players," Jardim said. "Winning the tournament was our target from the beginning and I'm happy we have achieved that."

As Asian champions, Hilal booked a place at next year’s Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. The tournament, expected to take place in early February, already includes UAE champions Al Jazira, 2020/21 Uefa Champions League winners Chelsea, Concacaf champions Monterrey of Mexico, African Champions League winners Al Ahly of Egypt, and Oceania champions Auckland City.

The winner of the all-Brazilian Copa Libertadores final on Saturday between Palmeiras and Flamengo will take the final slot in the seven-team tournament.

On competing in the Club World Cup, Jardim said: "Our objective is to win every game. The top teams from the world will be there but we will do our best as the champions of Asia."

Updated: November 24th 2021, 6:43 AM