Abu Dhabi: Al Ahli were forced to “pay the price” for not taking their chances in Saturday’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League final defeat to China’s Guangzhou Evergrande, coach Cosmin Olaroiu claimed.
The Arabian Gulf League outfit, who were held to a goalless draw in the first leg earlier this month in Dubai, conceded the only goal of an evenly matched tie nine minutes into the second half at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium, as Guangzhou’s Brazilian striker Elkeson netted a sublime individual goal.
With striker Rodrigo Lima failing to convert the best chances for Al Ahli, who had defender Salmin Khamis sent off with 23 minutes remaining, 2013 winners Guangzhou held on to deny the UAE a first AFC Champions League title since Al Ain won the inaugural final in 2003.
“We have to say congratulations to Guangzhou for winning the trophy. We were near, we tried our best. We played very well in the first half. We had a few chances that we missed,” said Olaroiu.
“We sat back a little in the second half and lost the ball a lot in the middle. After the red card, we still kept trying to play and score. The players did a good job even if they didn’t win the trophy.
“In the Champions League final you can only create a few opportunities, but if you don’t score, you pay the price. We had more clear-cut chances than them, but we didn’t score.”
The defeat ended an eight-game unbeaten streak in the AFC Champions League for 2014 UAE champions Al Ahli, who were appearing in the knockout stage of the competition for the first time, having failed to qualify from the group stage on four previous occasions.
“They did very well for the United Arab Emirates. It’s not easy to lose in the final. We saw some problems today, but these games show us how strong we are. This is not the end; this is where we can start to fix the problems,” the Romanian added.
“It was difficult to score after we were reduced to 10 men. It was hard to create chances after that, as much as we tried.
“In the beginning, nobody believed we could make the final. With hard work and the sacrifices we made, we did it.
“In these kind of games you can see many things about your team. We can learn from this and improve in the future.”
Meanwhile, Luis Felipe Scolari was full of praise for his Guangzhou Evergrande side after the Chinese Super League outfit claimed their second AFC Champions League title in three years.
The triumph means the Brazilian becomes only the second coach to lead a team to Fifa World Cup and AFC Champions League glory after Italian Marcello Lippi achieved the feat with Guangzhou two years ago.
“I would like to thank my players because due to their contributions and efforts I can enjoy such successes,” said Scolari, who remains unbeaten as Guangzhou coach after replacing Fabio Cannavaro in June.
“The winners are those that never give up. Every one of my players has helped me.”
“In life we have happy days and not so happy days, but tonight it has been a wonderful night. I have had a few great moments before, but tonight I feel quite extraordinary,” added Scolari.