Al Sadd march into AFC Champions League quarterfinal
Xavi Hernandez's men score a convincing 3-1 win over Duhali SC in the second leg to set up a high-voltage quarterfinal against Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr
To the accompaniment of lights from thousands of their fans’ mobile phones, Al Sadd marched into the quarterfinal of the AFC Champions League, defeating fellow-Qatari club Duhail Sports Club 4-2 on aggregate here on Tuesday.
At the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, the home fans’ gesture was an acknowledgement of an excellent display by Sadd, who rebuffed a strong Duhail challenge 3-1 in the second leg. The first leg of the round of 16 contest had ended 1-1 last week.
Absorbing the early pressure from Duhail with aplomb, Sadd deflated their rivals with two fine goals in the first half. A determined push from Duhail allowed them to come close in the second half, but not enough as Sadd progressed, finding another goal late in the match.
Akram Afif (20thminute) and Abdelkarim Hassan (34th) netted the Sadd goals in the first half while Edmilson Junior pulled one back for Duhail in the 56th. An own goal by Ahmed Yasser was the final nail in the Duhail coffin before frayed tempers took over.
Duhail’s Muhammed Muntari received a red card for unsportsmanlike conduct from Australian referee Christopher Beath in injury time and the players had to be kept in check by officials at the final whistle to prevent further chaos.
Sadd will now take on Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia in the quarterfinal, with the matches scheduled on August 26 and September 16.
The teams had played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg, leaving Duhail with some work to do to overturn the away-goal advantage that Xavi’s men enjoyed.
Duhail were the better of the two teams in early exchanges on Guesday, their organised ways giving Sadd not much room to work their way up.
Quicker to the ball, Rui Faria’s men also picked out holes in the Sadd defence. The story of the Round of 16 match could well have been different had they turned that advantage into goals. Almoez Ali had himself to blame for firing his shot wide very early in the game, but Edmilson was thwarted by a brilliant save from Saad Al Sheeb in the Sadd goal.
Sadd slowly gained control, with Hasan Al Haydos making his presence felt in the midfield. A snap attack then caught Duhail off guard in the 21stminute. Al Haydos found Baghdad Bounadjah in the middle and the Algerian quickly squared it to an unmarked Akram Afif to his right. The Qatari international drilled the ball home without a fuss.
Sadd then raised the tempo and their quick interchange of passes left Duhail in some discomfort at the back. The second goal arrived soon enough as Sadd earned a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. Hassan stepped up and breached the wall superbly, giving no chance to Claude Lecomte in the Duhail goal.
The two goals disrupted the rhythm that Duhail had so nicely built up. But they bounced back well in the second half and the arrival of Ismail Mohamad pepped up their attacks. A quick counter-attack then fetched them a lifeline, with Al Hassan Afif finding Edmilson with a cross from the left. The Belgian bulged the net with a firm shot, raising Duhail’s spirits.
The match was in balance at that point. Duhail needed just one more goal to advance by virtue of the away-goal rule, but Sadd did well enough not only to frustrate them from then on but also got a bonus goal when defender Yasser turned in a Al Haydos freekick from the left while trying to thwart Hassan.
That made the scoreline look more than respectable. It was Sadd’s first win over a Qatari club in the Champions League.
The teams are set to renew their rivalry when they meet again in the local season-opening Sheikh Jassim Cup on August 17.