Coach Giorgos Donis has backed two-time continental champions Al Hilal to remain on course to follow up last year’s AFC Champions League final appearance by overturning a 1-0 deficit in Tuesday’s last 16 second leg against Iran’s Persepolis at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, who were edged out by Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers in last year’s final, suffered a 1-0 defeat in the first leg in Tehran after a late own goal from Brazilian defender Digao saw Persepolis grab a late winner at a sold-out Azadi Stadium.
But with 1991 and 2000 Asian Club Championship winners Al Hilal having won all three games at home during the group stage of this year’s continental competition, Donis is eying a place in the June 18 draw for the quarter-finals for the Group C winners.
“We gave a good performance and created a few opportunities, but unfortunately the result didn’t go in our way,” said Al Hilal coach Donis, who is certain to be without Salman Al Faraj due to suspension after the midfielder was sent-off in closing stages of the first leg defeat.
“We tried our best to get a positive result, but we were a little bit unlucky. We can make things up in the return leg and I believe my team have the ability to qualify for the quarter-finals.”
Also on Tuesday, Qatar champions Lekhwiya will look to convert a 2-1 first leg win over fellow Stars League side Al Sadd into a second AFC Champions League quarter-final appearance.
Sebastian Soria and Youssef Msakni scored for 2013 quarter-finalists Lekhwiya in the first leg, although Hassan Al Haydos’s strike at the end of the first half gave 2011 champions Al Sadd hope of a second consecutive appearance in the last eight.
Lekhwiya coach Michael Laudrup, though, will be without Luiz Junior after the midfielder was sent-off towards the end of the first leg.
Elsewhere, Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol will look to build on a 3-2 win over Korea Republic’s Suwon Samsung, while China’s Beijing Guoan entertain K-League Classic leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors with the sides level at 1-1 following the first leg at Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
Brazilian Leandro scored twice for Kashiwa at Suwon World Cup Stadium, although with Yeom Ki-hun and Jong Tae-se netting for Suwon, the 2013 semi-finalists are not guaranteed a return to the quarter-finals.
“We still have the second leg still to play,” said Kashiwa coach Tatsuma Yoshida. “We are not thinking that this tie is already won, and we know there is still a long way to go.
“This is only half-time and the players will need not to get carried away. There is still a lot of work to do. The result was good, but Suwon are still a very strong and tough team.”
Finally on Tuesday, Beijing’s bid for a first-ever quarter-finals appearance continues at home to Korean champions Jeonbuk after Pablo Batalla’s late penalty earned Gregorio Manzano’s side a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
CAPTION – Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal entertain Iran’s Persepolis in the second leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 tie looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.