‘Mabrouk to all the Al Ain fans’: Zlatko Dalic delighted to reach Asian Champions League final

Zlatko Dalic praised his Al Ain players for coming through a difficult night in Qatar on Tuesday as they booked their place in a first Asian Champions League final in 11 years.

Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic salutes the fans after the Asian Champions League semi-final second leg in Doha. Karim Jaafar / AFP
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DOHA // Zlatko Dalic praised his Al Ain players for coming through a difficult night in Qatar on Tuesday as they booked their place in a first Asian Champions League final in 11 years.

The UAE side, the only Emirati club to be crowned continental champions, drew 2-2 in the semi-final second leg with El Jaish at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium, winning the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

Al Ain were given a brief scare, even though captain Omar Abdulrahman opened the scoring in the 57th minute. However, a double from El Jaish striker Romarinho meant the hosts required only one more goal to force extra-time, but Mohammed Abdulrahman made safe the match for Al Ain in injury-time.

• Match report: Al Ain hold nerve against El Jaish to reach Asian Champions League final

Cheered on by an estimated 700 fans in Doha, Al Ain will now contest next month’s two-legged final against either Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors or FC Seoul, the two South Korean sides who meet on Wednesday.

Al Ain have enjoyed Champions League success before, winning the title in 2003, and were also defeated in the final two years later.

“Mabrouk to all the Al Ain fans and for the final,” Dalic said. “Hard luck to El Jaish, they fought until the last minute. I cannot be angry, but we lost some concentration and conceded some easy goals. We panicked and what happened is natural.

“One big point in my memory was that I’m with my team for more than 100 games. Only once did we lose by more than one goal, with the 3-0 semi-final loss at Al Hilal [in 2014]. I know my team always can do something. I was not afraid.

“Thankfully, we’ve reached the final. Now we have to be ready for this game as it won’t be easy for us. Another big team awaits us from South Korea. But tonight we will enjoy our success and tomorrow we will think about that game. It is so special for our fans.”

Sabri Lamouchi, the El Jaish manager, added: “First of all I want to congratulate my players. First, because they did a great, great job — we saw the small details in experience and quality. It was a great adventure in the AFC Champions League. Now I want to congratulate Al Ain and say good luck for the final. All the Gulf is behind you.”

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