Defending champion Al Hilal Saudi FC kicked out of AFC CL after naming 11-man squad. Al Hilal’s official lineup had only nine players and two goalkeepers as substitutes after 15 members of the squad tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
Al Hilal, which had 15 members test positive for coronavirus last week, asked the Asian Football Confederation to postpone their final Group B tie after having only 11 players, including three goalkeepers, available. The AFC stated shortly after calling off the tie that they deemed the 2019 winners to have withdrawn from ACL under the “Special Rules Applicable to AFC Competitions during COVID-19 pandemic.”
All matches featuring Al Hilal, who had already booked a place in the Round of 16 before the final matchday in Group B, were ruled null and void. As a result, Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor Tashkent and UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli progressed to the knockout stages without having to kick a ball on Wednesday.
“Competition regulations allowed for 35 players to be registered by each club, but Al Hilal registered 30 of which only 27 traveled to Doha at the beginning of the competition,” the AFC said. It added that accepting the Saudi club’s demand to postpone the final group fixture would have had “a huge negative impact on the current match schedule of the ACL West Zone and so, no exception was granted.”
Razvan Lucescu’s side are the second outfit to be thrown out of the Asian Champions League season after UAE Pro League club Al Wahda FC failed to make it to Qatar for the resumption of the West Zone matches earlier in the month.