Al Hashemi confident Al Ain can beat Yokohama in second leg to win Asian Champions League

Emirati defender says teammates know their shortcomings from 2-1 first-leg defeat and believes home support will carry them to Asian title

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Al Ain defender Khalid Al Hashemi says he hopes from “the bottom of my heart” his side can deliver another Asian Champions League success for the UAE, as he backed the club to overcome Saturday’s defeat in the first leg of the final.

The 2003 winners, the only Emirati team to lift the continent’s premier club prize, suffered a 2-1 loss against Yokohama F Marinos in Japan.

Al Ain took an early lead at the Yokohama International Stadium through a Mohammed Abbas rebound but would ultimately concede twice in the final 18 minutes.

Contesting their fourth final and first since 2016, Al Ain will look to overhaul the one-goal deficit in the second leg at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on May 25 – and, in the process, end a 21-year wait for the trophy.

“We have another 90 minutes in our stadium against the same team,” Al Hashemi said. “We know them now already. [The first leg] was about the little details. We lost because of those, especially with the crosses and second balls – we could have done better with these details.

“I believe if we can concentrate more about these, Inshallah we win in our stadium and take the trophy with our fans. I hope so.”

Al Hashemi, 27, described the players in the dressing room immediately after the defeat as being "devastated", adding: “Everybody’s upset. We knew that we could at least get a good result, even a win or a draw.

“But this is football, this is life. Sometimes what you want you can’t [make] happen. I hope we recover these days, and we make a very good result with our fans.”

Al Ain, twice runners-up, boast an almost-perfect home record in this season’s Champions League, having won all but one of their six matches at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Hernan Crespo's side defeated Saudi Arabian powerhouses Al Nassr and Al Hilal at home, in the quarter-final and semi-final, respectively. Although, both were first-leg encounters, with Al Ain then travelling to Riyadh to protect their leads and in the end advance.

“Before any game we play, we know we have the Al Ain flag on our chest, the UAE flag on our chest,” Al Hashemi said. “We represent ourselves; we represent our country on this stage now.

“And we’re pretty confident in ourselves. I hope with the confidence we have good results as well.”

Al Hashemi predicted a hostile atmosphere would welcome Yokohama to the Garden City ground in less than two weeks, saying: "I’m pretty sure that the fans will fire up the stadium; I hope so for the 90 minutes.

"But I really want from them is that they fire up the whole game, from minute one to the last second. I believe the fans will play a big role in that game and I hope we win.”

On Saturday, Al Hashemi and centre-back partner Autonne Kouame did well for the most part to keep Anderson Lopes, Yokohama’s star striker, from adding to his six goals in the tournament.

However, the Japanese side, making their first appearance in a Champions League final, eventually drew level on the night on 72 minutes, when Asahi Uenaka met Yan Matheus’ cross to head home.

Yokohama, managed by former Leeds United, Liverpool and Australia forward Harry Kewell, then sealed the victory six minutes from time, with Kouta Watanabe deflecting home Ryo Miyaichi’s shot-cum-cross at the Al Ain back post.

“We knew already that this team plays very good football; every player on the pitch plays very well with [the ball at] their feet,” Al Hashemi said. “We knew that we had to stick man to man with them and, like I said, these details, with the second balls and the crosses, we had to be tighter to the players.

“That cost us the two goals … the players especially know this. We will work on it and I’m pretty sure we will win.”

The UAE's most decorated club, Al Ain are one of only two Emirati sides to reach the Champions League final – Al Ahli did so in 2015 – but lost both attempts since their 2003 triumph, in 2005 and 2016.

“That’s why everybody wants this trophy so bad,” Al Hashemi said, referencing the club's long search for a second continental crown. “I hope really from the bottom of my heart that we win and give this happiness to everybody in the country and also our Highnesses.”

On whether he was still confident Al Ain would achieve that, even with the first-leg defeat, the centre-back said: “Of course ... of course. Always believe in football, no matter what problem.”

Updated: May 13, 2024, 8:34 AM