Al Hilal tactician Razvan Lucescu was surprised fierce Saudi rivals Al Ahli Jeddah did not show “much more aggression” in their forlorn chase of a 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-final berth.
The Romanian’s star-studded troops had expected a cavalry charge at King Saud University Stadium on Tuesday night to redress the balance after their 4-2 opening-leg victory – fuelled by ex-France centre forward Bafetimbi Gomis’ hat-trick – in Jeddah. This, however, did not transpire.
Occasional Saudi Arabia forward Abdulfattah Asiri’s deflected 42nd-minute strike, to earn a hollow 1-0 win on the night and 4-3 overall loss, was the only shot on target from the chastened visitors.
“The most important aspect of tonight’s game was our qualification,” said Lucescu, who joined this summer from surprise Super League Greece winners PAOK. “As a game, I am not happy, but it was a special situation with us having the qualification in our hands.
“We didn’t do what we wanted to do as offensive style and bringing the ball easier from the back, we didn’t create opportunities, like we did in Jeddah.
“Honestly, the result should have been a draw, 1-1, 0-0, because we had two big opportunities, and they had the goal scored and one second opportunity in 85 minutes.
“Then after a balanced game, a tough game, in which Al Ahli should have pushed and played with much more aggression, without having anything to lose.
“We tried to make our game, unfortunately we were not able, but at the same time we are very, very focused.”
Another all-Saudi match-up awaits in the last-eight for Hilal against Al Ittihad.
In West Asia’s other tie, Saudi Professional League and Qatar Stars League holders will meet when Al Nassr battle Xavi’s Al Sadd.
Domestic matters, however, now become the sole focus of vanquished Ahli.
Their experienced boss, Branko Ivankovic, hoped “more self-confidence” had been gained prior to August 22’s top-flight opener versus promoted Al Adalah.
He said: “Both games, in Jeddah and here, were very tough games, we tried to make a surprise, but of course it’s not easy. But I am very proud of my players, they played with full concentration, they were disciplined tactically, (they played) very well, just that we needed more direction when we tried to score.
“For me, it’s more important that we deserved the win and we showed that we have quality, for our ambition which we said when we started preparation for the new season.
“As you know, it’s always (this way) with a derby, in the derbies there is always something special, something new, and this win is something that will give us more self-confidence and more morality for the next days as we are working, hard-working, for the start of the league.”
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