Al Ahli players celebrate the winning goal in injury time as the Dubai club gets past Al Hilal on Wednesday night in Dubai and advances to the Asian Champions League final. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Al Ahli players celebrate the winning goal in injury time as the Dubai club gets past Al Hilal on Wednesday night in Dubai and advances to the Asian Champions League final. Jeffrey E Biteng / The NatiShow more

Kwon Kyung-won’s late winner lifts Al Ahli past Al Hilal and into Asian Champions League final

Al Ahli 3 Al Hilal 2

Ahli win on aggregate, 4-3

Al Ahli Lima 17', Ribeiro 45', Kwon Kyung-won 90'+4

Al Hilal Almeida 51', Eduardo 64'

Man of the match Everton Ribeiro (Al Ahli)

DUBAI // Al Ahli: Asian Champions League finalists. Barely, beautifully, Asian Champions League finalists.

It will no doubt take some time to sink in, scarcely believable that a club contesting the knockout stages for the very first time has made it to the verge of being crowned continental kings, but Ahli’s improbable dream is almost a reality.

Kwon Kyung-won’s injury-time goal did it; outdid Al Hilal. From within touching distance of the showpiece, to down and out, to back again. An incredible match was granted a suitably remarkable finish.

“It’s qualification, but for me it’s a little bit difficult, because against Hilal one eye cries, one eye is happy,” said Cosmin Olaroiu, the Ahli coach who once managed the Saudi Arabians, as he tried to make sense of it all.

“Of course I’m happy mostly for my players; they are heroes for what they have done. Nobody gave them a chance and now they are in the final. I told them just there that they don’t have to stop here.”

They will be forgiven for downing tools for a while, such was the effort applied at a fervent Rashid Stadium on a humid night. A 3-1 aggregate lead appeared and then disappeared, almost in an instant. Hauled level, Ahli inexplicably heaved themselves off the canvas to strike right at the death. The very death.

Everton Ribeiro swung in a hopeful free kick, the ball ricocheted off bodies, dropped to Kwon and the South Korean somehow forced it home, via a deflection. All of a sudden, the President’s Cup culprit became the Champions League conqueror.

The stadium rocked and it reverberated; Ahli, never before beyond the group stages, bounced and bounded through to next month’s final. Their history boys have another chapter to write.

“Sometimes you need a little bit of luck in football and this time it was on our side,” Olaroiu said.

“I think from what happened over the two games we deserved to qualify. And my players deserve the congratulations in the way they play and they fight and they don’t give up. They deserve the best performance in the club’s history in this kind of Champions League competition.”

At one point, their progression seemed all so certain. Rodrigo Lima and Ribeiro scored first-half goals to embellish the 1-1 draw attained in Riyadh three weeks ago, Ahli’s advantage morphing to 3-1 with only 45 minutes to go. A Brazilian double – Lima’s tap-in from Ahmed Khalil’s pinpoint cross and later Ribeiro’s expert lob – had sparked the party.

Then, Hilal fought back with their own twin Brazilian edge: Ailton Almeida’s fine turn and finish six minutes into the second half, Carlos Eduardo’s unstoppable shot from range 13 minutes later.

Unlucky for some.

But, ultimately, fortune favoured Ahli. The clock climbed to 94 minutes, Ribeiro carved the chance, Kwon seized it. The hosts had their winner, the most unlikely of winners. Bedlam after the goal, bedlam after the final whistle.

In the post-match mayhem, Giorgos Donis was asked if he feared for his job as Hilal coach. The Greek, visibly shocked by what had earlier transpired, bit back.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “We play, like, 30 games and we won 25. We played in the semi-final and we lost in the last minute. I’m very proud of my team because they worked very hard in all of this period. I know it’s hard, but we have a lot of targets, to win every target, and this question, at this time, is very stupid.”

Ahli’s future, though, looks bright. They are Asian Champions League finalists; only the second UAE club to boast such a claim. It was scarcely believable, but beautiful all the same.

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE

Milestones on the road to union


October 26: Bahrain withdraws from a proposal to create a federation of nine with the seven Trucial States and Qatar. 

December: Ahmed Al Suwaidi visits New York to discuss potential UN membership.


March 1:  Alex Douglas Hume, Conservative foreign secretary confirms that Britain will leave the Gulf and “strongly supports” the creation of a Union of Arab Emirates.

July 12: Historic meeting at which Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid make a binding agreement to create what will become the UAE.

July 18: It is announced that the UAE will be formed from six emirates, with a proposed constitution signed. RAK is not yet part of the agreement.

August 6:  The fifth anniversary of Sheikh Zayed becoming Ruler of Abu Dhabi, with official celebrations deferred until later in the year.

August 15: Bahrain becomes independent.

September 3: Qatar becomes independent.

November 23-25: Meeting with Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid and senior British officials to fix December 2 as date of creation of the UAE.

November 29:  At 5.30pm Iranian forces seize the Greater and Lesser Tunbs by force.

November 30: Despite  a power sharing agreement, Tehran takes full control of Abu Musa. 

November 31: UK officials visit all six participating Emirates to formally end the Trucial States treaties

December 2: 11am, Dubai. New Supreme Council formally elects Sheikh Zayed as President. Treaty of Friendship signed with the UK. 11.30am. Flag raising ceremony at Union House and Al Manhal Palace in Abu Dhabi witnessed by Sheikh Khalifa, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

December 6: Arab League formally admits the UAE. The first British Ambassador presents his credentials to Sheikh Zayed.

December 9: UAE joins the United Nations.

Second Test

In Dubai

Pakistan 418-5 (declared)
New Zealand 90 and 131-2 (follow on)

Day 3: New Zealand trail by 197 runs with 8 wickets remaining

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat


Jemma Eley, Maria Michailidou, Molly Fuller, Chloe Andrews (of Dubai College), Eliza Petricola, Holly Guerin, Yasmin Craig, Caitlin Gowdy (Dubai English Speaking College), Claire Janssen, Cristiana Morall (Jumeirah English Speaking School), Tessa Mies (Jebel Ali School), Mila Morgan (Cranleigh Abu Dhabi).


Director: Meshal Al Jaser

Starring: Adwa Bader, Yazeed Almajyul, Khalid Bin Shaddad

Rating: 4/5

The specs: 2019 Subaru Forester

Price, base: Dh105,900 (Premium); Dh115,900 (Sport)

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Torque: 239Nm @ 4,400rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 8.1L / 100km (estimated)


Uefa Champions League semi-final, second leg result:

Ajax 2-3 Tottenham

Tottenham advance on away goals rule after tie ends 3-3 on aggregate

Final: June 1, Madrid


Lightweight (female)
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Mohammed Al Katheeri bt Abrorbek Madaminbekov
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Ahmed Abdolaziz bt Imad Essassi
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Price: Dh3,899 / Dh4,349

How to vote

Canadians living in the UAE can register to vote online and be added to the International Register of Electors.

They'll then be sent a special ballot voting kit by mail either to their address, the Consulate General of Canada to the UAE in Dubai or The Embassy of Canada in Abu Dhabi

Registered voters mark the ballot with their choice and must send it back by 6pm Eastern time on October 21 (2am next Friday) 

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Queens of the Stone Age

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
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Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices


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Pot 4
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7 — Michael Schumacher (1994, ’95, 2000, ’01 ’02, ’03, ’04)

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5 — Juan Manuel Fangio (1951, ’54, ’55, ’56, ’57)

4 — Alain Prost (1985, ’86, ’89, ’93)

4 — Sebastian Vettel (2010, ’11, ’12, ’13)


Uefa Champions League semi-finals, second leg:

Liverpool (0) v Barcelona (3), Tuesday, 11pm UAE

Game is on BeIN Sports


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