Al-Ahli through to first AFC Champions League final in dramatic style

With all the carry on going on in Zurich at FIFA towers of late, it is nice to be able to talk about actions on the field for a change and the thoroughly entertaining AFC Champions League semi-final second leg between Al -Ahli and Al-Hilal last night in Dubai.

The Saudis had been favourites to progress over the two legs but they were held at home after missing a penalty and on Tuesday night only had themselves to blame again as they were knocked out with almost the last kick in the 95th minute of a topsy-turvy match.

Brazilians Lima and Everton Ribeiro had put Al-Ahli 2-0 up on the night and 3-1 on aggregate but some tactical switches at halftime by Al-Hilal boss Giorgos Donis helped the Saudis draw level through Ailton and a stunner from Carlos Eduardo.

Hilal tried to kill the pace of the game in the final 25 minutes rather than go for a third against an Ahli side that had been left ragged by the two goal salvo, which ultimately proved costly. Having sunk deeper and deeper, a free kick swung in by Everton Ribeiro in the 95th minute wasn’t properly cleared and South Korean Kwon Kyung-won gratefully smashed the ball that dropped to him.

View all the goals here.  Some crackers.

And some reaction from my Reuters colleague Matt Smith who was at the game.

Mixed emotions for former Al Hilal boss Olariou after guiding Al Ahli to the final

and his match report

Quite often with the Champions League format we see the same teams contest year after year so nice for Al-Ahli to make it through to a first final. They await the winners of the East Asia semi between Guangzhou Evergrande and Gamba Osaka.

For Al-Hilal, another case of Champions League heartache after they somehow contrived to lose the final to Western Sydney Wanderers last year despite dominating the Australians. And it seems the unforgiving Saudi media are already putting the heat on Donis. Who would be a manager?