Micale relieved after Al Hilal’s narrow AFC Champions League escape

Head coach Rogério Micale admitted that Al Hilal SFC were fortunate to advance to the 2021 AFC Champions League Round of 16 after suffering a 2-0 defeat to UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli in their final Group A  match on Friday.

A brace from Brazilian forward Igor Jesus nearly dealt a blow to Al Hilal’s dreams of advancing to thelast 16 as the Saudi giants finished second behind FC Istiklol of Tajikistan, with the Saudi champions eventually qualifying as one of the three best group runners-up.

Brazilian Micale said his side held the upper hand against Shabab Al Ahli but couldn’t score and eventually lost the chance of finishing top of the group.

“It’s true that we lost today but Shabab Al Ahli’s first chance was when they got the penalty and then they scored the second goal from a quick counter attack. The defeat cost us the chance to finish top of the group as we had to wait to see the result of the last match,” said a disappointed Micale.

“We can’t look for reasons behind the defeat or blame anyone. The players that I chose before the tournament were players who we could use and take advantage of in the matches.

“The group was not as easy as some might think as the last team in the group won against the pacesetters and this shows that all the four teams in the group are strong.

“It has been a difficult year for our team. Recently, we achieved four consecutive victories and we believed that we were back on track but we are back to square one now.”

Shabab Al Ahli head coach Mahdi Ali said his side performed well despite several changes to the starting line-up due to injuries to key players.

“It was a difficult match for us although we had lost our chances already. It was, on the other hand, an important match for Al Hilal who played the same way they played against us in the previous meeting,” said the former UAE national team head coach.

“We made some changes because of injuries. However, all the players performed strongly as they stopped the key players of Al Hilal.

“In the second half, we were good physically as we had five or six players who didn’t feature much in the previous match and we managed to seal the win.”

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