Kuala Lumpur: Four teams went into the first leg of the AFC Champions League semi-finals with the dream of being crowned kings of Asia and three will still be feeling relatively positive about their chances, while Persepolis have been given a mountain to climb.
With a three-week break until the continent’s premier club competition resumes for the second leg of the semi-finals, the-AFC.com highlights some of the most noteworthy statistics from the first legs of the last-four clashes.
Top scorers cancel each other out
Games involving Shanghai SIPG and Urawa Red Diamonds had seen a combined total of 75 goals prior to the first leg, meaning a barrage had been anticipated in China. Both sides play to win, sometimes at a cost, which is why a low-scoring stalemate – the first draws of their respective campaigns – could be classed as somewhat of a surprise.
Al Hilal’s Salem Al Dawsari looked lively throughout the 4-0 win over Persepolis and the four chances he created for his teammates was a weekly high. Indeed, with two assists – also more than any other player on the continent – the wide midfielder can reflect on an excellent night’s work in Abu Dhabi.
There may have been less goals than expected between Shanghai and Urawa, but Oscar, Hulk and Wu Lei amassed 14 efforts on goal between them. However, Andre Villas-Boas’ team found the back of the net just once in a game that saw Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa make a weekly high seven saves – the joint-highest total seen in the knockout rounds so far.
Boots laced with gold
On the other side of the continent, Omar Khribin’s shooting boots were far more accurate with the Syrian’s three efforts all finding the back of the net as Al Hilal took a giant leap towards the final and the forward moved to within two goals of top scorer Hulk.
Hulk’s scoring run continues
Perhaps the standout statistic of the whole competition is Hulk’s record of finding the back of the net in every game he’s played. Another cracker against Urawa sees him receive further recognition but, with nine goals in nine games, the praise directed towards the tournament’s top scorer is entirely deserved.
Persepolis’ Sadegh Moharrami delivered nine crosses into the penalty area – five more than the second-highest weekly tally, from teammate Vahid Amiri – but the Iranian side were unable to breach the Al Hilal backline and it’s fair to say that the absence of leading scorer Mehdi Taremi proved a huge loss.
No way past
Al Hilal proved irresistible going forward in their 4-0 victory over Persepolis but their backline is also due some credit. The Riyadh side have not conceded since Aloys Nong’s 12th-minute goal for Esteghlal Khouzestan in the second leg of the Round of 16, while a third successive shutout means goalkeeper Abdullah Al Moyouf boasts a tournament-leading five clean sheets.