Goal-scorer Bafetimbi Gomis sealed fully merited individual and collective glory on Sunday when Al Hilal defeated Urawa Red Diamonds in the 2019 AFC Champions League final.
Gomis, 34, made up for a series of earlier misses in injury time with a close-range finish. This made it 2-0 on the night, and 3-0 on aggregate.
Their star striker also ended up as 11-goal tournament leading marksman and Most Valuable Player.
Attempts on target: 3
Attempts off target: 3
Passing accuracy: 66.7 per cent
Aerial duels won: 1
Aerial duels lost: 7
Fouls won: 2
Fouls conceded: 2
Hilal dominated the opening contest in Riyadh, yet only had a 1-0 aggregate advantage to show for it.
They regrouped at half-time in Japan after a balanced start and launched a ferocious offensive. Gomis saw two attempts from six yards fail to go in, prior to Salem Al Dawsari notching a crucial away goal when he got on the end of an emphatic team move on 74 minutes.
Continental supremacy was then assured deep into injury time, Gomis making no mistake from Andre Carrillo’s cut-back.
Never giving up: This was a story of perseverance for the ex-France No9.
Lesser strikers would have seen their heads drop after a succession of close-range opportunities went begging. A half-volley that went straight at the goalkeeper was especially glaring from Yasser Al Shahrani’s centre, plus a subsequent failure to notch after being set-up by Sebastian Giovinco.
Gomis, though, knew if he kept getting in the right places, then joy would follow. This viewpoint remained intact after 90 minutes – and his reward followed.
Not head boy: For a man of Gomis’ stature, a pair of statistics stood out.
The ex-Lyon and Marseille front man went up for eight aerial challenges versus Urawa – he won just one. This 12.5-per-cent success ratio was made more surprising by the fact none of the three centre-backs are particularly towering.
It could definitely be improved upon for the 2020’s title defence.
This is, of course, if you are nit-picking about someone who contributed more than anyone to Hilal’s ACL glory.
A fair reflection on Gomis’ impact does not just encompass Sunday night’s action at Saitama Stadium 2002.
His ascension to MVP was earned in the hard slog since competition began back in March. A brace was registered at then Qatar Stars League holders Al Duhail, while the hat-trick in Jeddah versus Al Ahli proved essential to advancement from the round of 16.
Hilal sent €6 million Galatasaray’s way in August 2018 to get themselves a global figure. Their investment has been richly, and repeatedly, rewarded.
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