FIFA World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari claims that winning the AFC Champions League with Guangzhou Evergrande on Saturday feels “quite extraordinary” after the Chinese Super League side edged out Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates.
Brazilian Elkeson, as the striker did in 2013 as Guangzhou beat Korea Republic’s FC Seoul on away goals in the final, netted the decisive goal at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium nine minutes into the second half of the second leg following a goalless draw in the first leg in Dubai earlier this month.
And with Al Ahli eventually finishing the game with 10 men following the dismissal of defender Salmin Khamis, Scolari joins Italian Marcello Lippi as the only two head coaches to have won the FIFA World Cup and AFC Champions League.
“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,” said 67-year-old Scolari, who guided his native Brazil to success at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
“We have now won two AFC Champions Leagues in three years. We are growing day-by-day so we can dream of improving further.
“We still have a long way to go, but I have a great team at a great club and great players.”
Scolari replaced another FIFA World Cup winner, Fabio Cannavaro, as Guangzhou coach in June and has yet to taste defeat having also helped the southern Chinese side claim a fifth consecutive domestic Super League title.
“I would like to thank my players because due to their contributions and efforts I can enjoy such successes,” added Scolari, who saw striker Ricardo Goulart named the tournament’s MVP after topping the goalscoring charts with eight goals.
“The winners are those that never give up. Every one of my players has helped me.”
Knockout stage Al Ahli were looking to hand the UAE a first AFC Champions League title since Al Ain prevailed in 2003, but after failing to convert first leg home advantage, Cosmin Olaroiu’s side saw their eight-game unbeaten streak in the competition ended.
Brazilian Rodrigo Lima had Al Ahli’s best chances after being denied by Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng Cheng in the first half before seeing only a last-ditch tackle from Korea Republic centre-back Kim Young-gwon deny the striker with 12 minutes remaining.
“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,” said Romanian coach Olaroiu having guided Al Ahli into the knockout stage for the first time following four previous group stage exits.
“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.”