Xavi Hernandez enjoyed his maiden victory as coach with Al Sadd registering a 3-1 win over rivals Al Duhail SC to storm into the 2019 AFC Champions League (ACL) quarter-finals.
Yesterday’s victory in the return leg gave the Wolves a 4-2 aggregate.
Akram Afif (20) and Abdelkarim Hassan (34) were on target for the Wolves before Ahmed Yasser’s injury time (90+1) own goal wrapped up the clear win for the hosts at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
Al Duhail’s only goal was scored by Edmilson Junior (56).
Speaking after the match, Xavi said: “We are delighted to have qualified for the quarter-finals. We won against one of the strongest teams in the Middle East. In the last game we were better than today’s meeting despite the draw. Although we scored three goals, there could’ve been more, because we missed many opportunities.”
“Al Duhail has a great team, they are one of the best in Qatar. Today’s game was very important and I am happy with the numbers we have achieved,” the jubilant Spanish tactician said.
Only one of the two Qatari sides could make it back-to-back AFC Champions League quarter-finals, and Al Sadd had the relative advantage going into yesterday’s fixture, having scored an away goal in the 1-1 draw at Al Duhail’s ground last week.
They will face Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in the quarter-finals, scheduled for August 26 and September 16.
Al Duhail showed attacking intent from the get-go as centre-back Ahmed Yasser found Almoez Ali with a long pass after just three minutes. The Qatari international striker controlled the ball neatly inside the box, but his finish lacked accuracy, sending it wide of Saad Al Sheeb’s goal.
Al Sheeb was forced into a double-save in the 10th minute as Edmilson got past his marker down the right flank, cutting inside and shooting with the outside of his right boot. The Al Sadd goalkeeper made a superb diving save and was quick to get up and parry Youssef Msakni’s shot on the rebound.
The early storm was weathered and soon the hosts took the lead against the run of play. Former Al Duhail playmaker Nam Tae-hee supplied a defence-splitting pass for Baghdad Bounedjah who went through on goal and selflessly squared for Akram Afif to finish into the empty net, giving Al Sadd the lead in the 20th minute. Three minutes later, Bounedjah could have doubled Al Sadd’s lead, beating the defender to Hassan’s cross and flicking the ball, but the Algerian watched in agony as his strike bounced off the upright and behind for a goal kick.
Xavi’s men got their second of the night in the 34th minute. Nam won a free-kick at the edge of the box after he was brought down by Madibo.
The 2018 AFC Player of The Year Hassan fired a bullet from the set-piece into the roof of the helpless Amine Lecomte to make it 2-0 going into the dressing rooms.
Al Duhail pulled one back 10 minutes after the restart through Edmilson. Ali started a quick counter attack from deep into his own half, supplying Ali Afif down the left to cross for the Brazilian winger who finished into the bottom corner of Al Sheeb’s net to revive Al Duhail’s hopes.
A thrilling final half an hour saw Bounedjah hit the post again for Al Sadd after a solo run and Al Duhail came just as close to scoring two minutes later with Afif’s corner being inadvertently flicked by Gabi into the frame of his own goal.
Matters were settled in Al Sadd’s favour in added time with a double-blow for Al Duhail. First, Yasser’s attempt to defend a Hassan Al Haydos free-kick ended with the ball rolling into the back of Lecomte’s net to make it 3-1 for Al Sadd at the death, then substitute Mohammed Muntari was sent-off in the aftermath after an assault on Boualem Khoukhi.
Xavi said that the win was very important as it will be a great motivation for his players ahead of the new QNB Stars League season which kicks off on August 21.
Al Sadd’s second successive quarter-final pits them against Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, with the first leg taking place on August 26 and the return leg three weeks later.
“It will be a difficult game against Al Nasr and I saw the last game and our goal is to cross into the semi-finals. Now we are thinking of Sheikh Jassim Cup and we will spend the night celebrating this victory,” Xavi said.
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