Al Hilal knock the wind out of Al Sadd sail
Saudi Arabian club take 4-1 lead as a red card to Abdelkarim Hassan derail hosts' challenge in first leg.
A match that started so promisingly for Al Sadd turned completely awry as they crashed to a 1-4 defeat against Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia in the first leg of the AFC Champions League semifinal at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday.
The Qatar champions, backed by an almost packed stands at their home venue, were the better team in the early part. But as Hilal began to fight back, they cracked under pressure and lost their cool to be on the verge of a semifinal exit for the second season in a row.
Xavi Hernandez’s team was reduced to 10 men by the 36th minute following a red card to defender Abdelkarim Hassan. Shown a yellow card by Omani referee Ahmed Al Kaf for a foul on Mohammed Alburayk, the Sadd player reacted angrily, prompting the official to flash the red card.
The score was 1-1 and from then on, Sadd’s game went downhill rapidly. They kept pressing forward, leaving the defence unguarded and were severely punished by Hilal, who enjoy a healthy, almost unbeatable, advantage ahead of the second leg on October 22.
Sadd’s problems would be compounded by the fact that Baghdad Bounedjah would also miss that game, apart from Hassan, after receiving a yellow card on the day.
The way Sadd started, it was unthinkable they would end it in this fashion. They controlled play and kept creating openings, with Afif, Hassan Al Haydos and Bounedjah piecing together some fine moves. The hosts received a touch of fortune too in the 15th minute when Bafetibi Gomis deflected the ball into his own net, trying to cut off a cross from Al Haydos.
Sadd should have cashed in on that period of ascendancy, but Bounedjah and Al Haydos seemed to have kept their scoring boots at home, as they failed to grab a clutch of openings.
To their credit, Hilal did not lose their composure. Razvan Lucescu’s men slowly worked their way into the game and drew level in the 33rd minute. Tarek Salman ceded possession through a poor pass and Sebastian Giovinco send in a cross that was drilled into the roof of the net by Gomis, atoning for his earlier lapse.
Hassan’s rush of blood then put Sadd on the backfoot but even after that, they created a few chances, with Afif’s shot hitting the post and Bounedjah firing wide. But at the stroke of half-time, Hilal wrested the lead, with a corner from Giovinco causing disarray in the Sadd defence, allowing Ali Hadi Albulayhi to beat Saad Al Sheeb.
Sadd were completely outclassed in the second half. The advantage in number that Hilal enjoyed began to show as they pressed ahead, leaving the rival defence in tatters. Sadd’s Salem Al Hajri, trying to cut off a Yasser Al Shahrani cross, directed the ball into his own goal as the hosts fell behind 1-3 in the 61st minute.
And the humiliation was complete six minutes later, Mohammad Al Shalhoub finding the mark off a Mohamed Kanno pass to virtually book Hilal’s ticket to the final.
A demoralised Sadd tried hard to reduce the margin, but the Saudi outfit thwarted those attempts to go home worthy winners.