Al Duhail coach Hernan Crespo looks on during semi-final against Al Hilal. AFP
Doha: Hernan Crespo raised his hand in defeat after Al Duhail SC were taught a sobering lesson by Al Hilal SFC in their AFC Champions League (ACL) 2022 semi-final at the Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.
The defending champions were in imperious form as they cruised to a 7-0 victory, leading to Crespo admitting that the Saudi Arabian side thoroughly deserved the win which booked them a final date with Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds.
“Really, in football we don’t have mysteries. When you face a great team like Al Hilal and when you lose some players, the difference is too big,” Crespo told the AFC website after the loss.
“I am very, very proud of my players, we created history. But there are no mysteries in football, what happened today was real. There is nothing to explain, everything was very clear,” said Crespo.
The Argentinian admitted that the difference between the two sides was Al Hilal’s strength in depth.
“We faced a team that eliminated Flamengo (in the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022), and scored three goals against Real Madrid (in the final). This is the difference between a team that is in the AFC Champions League semi-final for the first time and a team who have won the title before.
“Their squad strength is amazing compared to ours. We played a game every three days and didn’t have enough players for it,” said Crespo.
As sobering as the result was, Crespo said there was much that Al Duhail could learn from the defeat.
“I think if we want to build something for this club, we must learn from this defeat and understand how hard it was for us to reach the semi-finals.”
“We had high hopes of winning (against Al Hilal) but we must understand that Al Hilal are better than us, in terms of achievements and history. “We are proud to have reached the semi-finals but we must understand how hard it is to win the AFC Champions League. From tomorrow, we must start to understand and learn on how to get bigger and bigger,” the Argentinian tactician said.
Meanwhile, Ramon Diaz is confident of a different outcome when Al Hilal SFC play Urawa Red Diamonds in the final.
The Argentine coach was in charge when Al Hilal suffered a heartbreaking defeat to the Japanese side in the 2017 decider, losing 2-1 on aggregate.
“There is a big difference now compared to the 2017 final. We now have a highly experienced squad. We have very high quality in the squad, compared to 2017 where we were missing some players through injury.
“We also missed a lot of chances in both legs and that cost us the title,” said Diaz after steering Al Hilal to a resounding 7-0 win over Qatar’s Al Duhail SC in the 2022 semi-final on Sunday.
Al Hilal were so dominant that they raced to a 5-0 lead against Al Duhail in the first half at the Thumama Stadium with Odion Ighalo netting four, Moussa Marega two and Salem Al Dawsari one.
“We expected a difficult game as Al Duhail are top of the league in Qatar and they have a coach (Hernan Crespo) who was successful as a player and doing really well in guiding them.”
“However, Al Hilal are also a very good team. We are the defending champions, we have strong players and we produced a high quality game.
“Our management has given us everything and they, together with the fans, expect us to be challenging and winning titles. That is the Al Hilal way,” said Diaz.
Al Hilal will host Urawa in the first leg on April 29 with the return fixture to be played a week later. AFC
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