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Reaching Asian Champions League final not enough for Al Hilal, says Gomis

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Only victory will be good enough for Al Hilal when they take on South Korea’s Pohang Steelers in the Asian Champions League final on Tuesday, says Bafetimbi Gomis, as both clubs look to become the first four-time continental champions.

The final will be played in front of Al Hilal’s fans at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, with the Saudi Arabian side favourites to add the title to continental crowns won in 1991, 2000 and 2019.

“It was our target, our dream (to be in the final), but I don’t know if the word dream is the right word because Hilal always has, as a target, the Asian Champions League,” Gomis told The Asian Game podcast.

“Since the beginning of the competition our target is to win, it’s not to reach the final.”

The Saudi side won the title in 2019 to end a 19-year drought in the continent’s premier club competition, only to be kicked out of last year’s tournament during the group stage when a Covid-19 outbreak meant Al Hilal were unable to field a team.

This season they have shown steady improvement throughout after qualifying for the knockout rounds as one of the best runners-up in the group phase.

Wins over Iranian duo Esteghlal and Persepolis in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively were followed by semi-final success over cross-Riyadh rivals Al Nassr.

Gomis has scored six times in this year’s competition, still some way short of his tournament-leading 10 goals in the 2019 edition, and that victory is one the well-travelled former France international cherishes as the greatest of his career.

“I’ve won a lot of trophies and I’ve scored a lot of goals, but I will never change my Asian Champions League for anyone,” he said.

“It’s the best trophy, and the best moment in my career is when I won this trophy with Hilal. To compare, I have to win some trophy with France or with the Saudi national team because the celebration is with the whole country.”

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Al Hilal go into the decider as favourites with many in Leonardo Jardim’s squad appearing in a third final in five years following 2017’s defeat against Urawa Reds, a loss that was avenged against the Japanese club two years later.

“We have a lot of experience because for many players it’s the third final,” said Gomis.

“This is very important, to have some players who have played in this kind of game before. They’re not the same players when they played the first final.

“But this doesn’t mean we will win this kind of game easily. It will be very tough. We respect a lot the team from Korea. If they are in the final it is because they deserve it.”

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Bellingham hits out at referee in astonishing post-match interview

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Jude Bellingham has heavily criticised referee Felix Zwayer after the award of a controversial penalty during Borussia Dortmund’s 3-2 defeat against Bayern Munich.

The win saw Bundesliga champions Bayern move four points clear at the top of the table in Germany, in a game that had plenty of incident.

Dortmund had a credible penalty appeal turned down, while Mats Hummels was penalised for a harsh handball that let Robert Lewandowski score the winner from the spot.

Speaking after the match, Bellingham said the following as per a video posted by Viaplay.

“It wasn’t a penalty, [Mats Hummels] wasn’t looking at the ball, he’s fighting to get it. It hits him,” Bellingham claimed. “You can look at a lot of the decisions in the game; you give a referee that has match-fixed before the biggest game in Germany, what do you expect?”

Zwayer was banned from football for half a year for allegedly accepting a bribe in 2005 – confirmation of the ban did not arrive until a few years later, according to The Independent. An investigation by the German FA saw Zwayer punished along with several other officials.

He has since established himself as one of the top referees in Germany and is one of four to have been awarded UEFA Elite status.

Jude Bellingham criticises referee after Dortmund go down to Bayern | Bundesliga | The Guardian

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In a now-deleted tweet, Dortmund striker Erling Haaland quote-tweeted the announcement of Zwayer’s appointment with a thumb-down emoji.

“I think it was a scandal when it comes to the referee,” Haaland said after the game.

“Clear penalty [on Reus in the first half]. I asked [the referee], ‘Why didn’t you just go and look?’- he said, ‘there’s no need’, like an arrogant… No, I have to calm down a little bit now.

“He was arrogant and I will not say more.”

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Conte hints Tottenham will hold contract talks with Hugo Lloris

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Conte hints Tottenham will hold contract talks with Hugo Lloris

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte has revealed he hopes to speak to Hugo Lloris about the prospect of a new contract at the club.

The Frenchman’s current deal expires over the course of the summer and, despite the arrival of Pierluigi Gollini, has largely kept his place in the side under first Nuno Espirito Santo and now Conte.

Lloris has started all 13 of Spurs’ Premier League outings thus far, missing only their cup fixtures, and has once again proven to be on the leading shot-stoppers in England.

Ranking sixth in terms of post-shot expected goals ratings (a metric that judges how likely a ‘keeper is to save a shot based on the quality of the chance for the attacker) of goalkeepers to have played over ten games in the elite division, the 34-year-old is still a hugely important figure at the club.

“I’ve just arrived. Only one month. At this moment, for sure, we have many situations to solve,” said Conte.

Tottenham's extraordinary Conte coup: Tactical genius will turn struggling  Spurs into top-four contenders | Goal.com

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“Hugo is the captain of this team, the French national team and we’re talking about a top goalkeeper. He’s very focused now.

“He knows very well now we’re trying to do our best. Me as a coach, Hugo as goalkeeper and every player has to perform at a high level.

“But for sure we’ll have time to speak about him and I consider him an important player for his experience. He’s a good goalkeeper first of all and many years at the club, he showed always great commitment for this club.”

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EPL: West Ham’s defensive injury worries deepen in Chelsea derby

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West Hams defensive injury worries deepen in Chelsea derby

West Ham’s defensive injury concerns deepened during Saturday’s London derby against Chelsea.

The Hammers went into the clash in Stratford missing key centre-back Angelo Ogbonna, who is likely to miss the remainder of the season after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage against Liverpool last month.

They were also still without Aaron Cresswell, who missed the frustrating midweek draw with Brighton after painfully colliding with the goal post during last weekend’s defeat at Manchester City.

Ben Johnson has been deputising for Cresswell, though he too was hurt against Chelsea as he pulled up while trying to track Mason Mount’s run before the England midfielder netted a stunning volley shortly before half-time.

Arthur Masuaku replaced Johnson, while West Ham also looked likely to lose Kurt Zouma before the break after he was injured while producing a vital sliding challenge on Kai Havertz, who had to be replaced by Romelu Lukaku.

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While Zouma recovered and made it back out for the second half, he was later withdrawn just over 20 minutes from the end after appearing to suffer a hamstring injury.

Zouma tried to run off the issue on the sidelines as he pressed to return against his former club, but there never appeared any realistic chance of that happening and Pablo Fornals was sent on in his place.

David Moyes will no doubt be pressed for updates on Johnson and Zouma in in the coming days, with West Ham left with third and fourth-choice central defenders Craig Dawson and Issa Diop on the pitch for the closing stages against Chelsea.

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