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Muscat: Al Hilal coach Ramon Diaz revealed the prospect of reaching the AFC Champions League final undefeated served as an added motivation for his players as they came from behind twice to snatch a 2-2 draw on the night, securing a 6-2 aggregate win against Persepolis in the semi-final.

Following a 4-0 victory in the first leg, complacency was Al Hilal’s greatest worry and a Persepolis goal after 16 minutes rang the alarm bells louder, but Diaz’s men responded well to grab an equaliser and calm the nerves of the Saudi fans present at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.

“This was a game where we needed to play intelligently and we did what was required to reach the final,” said the Argentine, elaborating on his approach to the game.

“Persepolis are a very good team and they came into the match fired up, we worked to absorb their enthusiasm especially after they scored.

“Reaching the final unbeaten gave us that extra motivation we needed. Despite being 4-0 up from the first leg, we played positively and had chances. We could have won this game."

 

The Saudi Arabian champions reached their second AFC Champions League final in four years and Diaz paid tribute to his players.

“Credit goes to the players who fought hard and showed commitment. Not just in this game, but throughout the competition.

"Congratulations to them and to the fans in Saudi Arabia and here in Oman too. They showed us great support.”

Diaz and his players will switch on to watch the other semi-final second leg between Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds and China PR’s Shanghai SIPG to find out who will they face in the final.

“We are now in the final, so we will be watching to see which team will we get and will prepare accordingly.”

Veteran Mohammad Al Shalhoub is the only player from the Al Hilal side that lifted the 2000 Asian Club Championship still in the squad.

He lauded the players’ desire as a key factor behind Tuesday’s result.

“Persepolis started the game with fervour so it was natural that they would score first, but we wanted it more and that was the reason we were able to come back from behind twice.”

Photos: Lagardère Sports

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