'We’ll fight to win this Champions League' - Bafetimbi Gomis determined to help Al Hilal retain their crown
Saudi holders opened campaign with comfortable win over Shahr Khodro
Bafetimbi Gomis says Al Hilal’s champion status will make retaining their Asian Champions League crown even more difficult this year, but the star striker has vowed to fight to win the trophy again.
The Saudi Arabian side snapped an almost two-decade drought in November when they defeated Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds 3-0 on aggregate to secure the continent's premier club prize for a third time.
Hilal began their defence of the title in Dubai on Monday, dispatching tournament debutants Shahr Khodro 2-0 at Zabeel Stadium.
However, the scoreline did not truly reflect the Riyadh club’s superiority: Gomis scored the game’s second goal, but also had an effort cleared off the line and struck the crossbar with a spectacular overhead-kick.
Hilal return to Dubai early next week, when they take on Arabian Gulf League leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the second round of Group B matches.
Gomes said he understands the size of the task awaiting Hilal in this year’s competition, especially since no club has gone back-to-back since Saudi rivals Al Ittihad, 15 years ago.
“Yes of course - we come with all the teams wanting to win against us,” the Frenchman said. “It will be very difficult, but it’s a good challenge between us.
"But the first thing, and what the coach [Razvan Lucescu] said, we have to respect our opponent and don’t forget the past. I have a lot of experience; I know that in football in every year you have to show [your best].
“The most important, and it is what I believe, is that when you make something one time you can make it two times. This is our philosophy; it’s also what the coach believes.
“We’ll fight to win this Champions League, but the most important is to respect our opponent and to take it game-by-game, and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
Gomis finished last season as the Champions League top scorer, with 11 goals, while he was voted the tournament’s most valuable player. On Monday, he said he preferred to focus on improving again this time around.
“To play for a big club, to be big players, every year you have to forget what you made before,” Gomis said. “To think about the past is for when I retire, I will stay with my kids and watch what I have done.
"Now, I score only one goal in the Champions League; today I could have scored three. I’m not happy that I scored one and I have to go back tomorrow to work more to score more for my team. Because Hilal is a big club, with one coach who is very ambitious, the fans very ambitious, and they will not be happy if I score one goal when I could score more.
“I don’t have pressure, but this is the mentality to be always on the top. When you choose one club like Hilal you have to fight to always looking forward.”
Updated: February 11, 2020 11:52 AM