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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Duhail force draw against Al Sadd on Xavi’s coaching debut

The AFC Champions League Round of 16 clash between Al Sadd and Duhail SC had all the trappings of a local derby with its fair share of suspense.
Duhail players celebrate after scoring against Al Sadd during their AFC Champions League match in Doha on Tuesday. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Opening match blues prevailed over any desire for attractive and attacking football as Al Sadd and Al Duhail drew 1-1 in their AFC Champions League round of 16 clash on Tuesday.

A scrappy contest with very little thrills marked the first-leg action and Al Sadd could troop out slightly happier, having snatched a crucial away goal.

At the pretty Al Janoub stadium in Wakrah, a neat finish by Akram Afif fetched Al Sadd the lead in the 30th minute, but they couldn’t keep the advantage for long as Youssef Msakni struck the equaliser in the 44th.

The second half turned a rough affair with frequent stoppages disrupting the flow of play. Referee Satu Riyoju of Japan was kept busy and the thoughts soon turned to the Emir’s Cup final last season between the two teams, a contest that had ended on an unsavoury note, with Al Sadd reduced to nine players.

Action from the Duhail vs Al Sadd match. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Al Sadd, pressing hard for a late winner, even had a penalty appeal turned down and their players angrily confronted the referee at the final whistle. Bassam Al Rawi’s handball inside the penalty area was the bone of contention, but Riyoju held firm. The officials had to be escorted out after the game.

“I won’t like to comment on officiating, but this was a clear penalty,” said Al Sadd’s Xavi Hernandez, who was making his competitive debut as coach.

The spotlight was on Xavi and his men had a better start to the game, toeing the attacking line the coach had advocated at the start. But as the match progressed, Duhail found their footing and held their own.

With South Korean Nam Tae-Hee calling shots from the midfield, Sadd pressed for a strike and their efforts were rewarded with a shot from Afif, almost out of the blue. Tae-Hee found Afif unmarked on the left and the Qatari international drilled the ball into the bottom left corner with a firm drive, beating Duhail goalkeeper Amine Lecomte who dived in vain.

Al Sadd couldn’t enjoy their success for long. A minute before half-time, Edmilson Junior, who had threatened Sadd with his pace on the right, fired in a cross and it was guided by Mohammed Muntari to the path of Msakni. The Duhail player, returning from a loan spell with KAS Eupen in Belgium, cracked a first-time shot, surprising Saad Al Sheeb in the Al Sadd goal.

An agitated Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez (third from left) runs towards the assistant referee protesting a handball ruling. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Duhail started the second half better with Almoez Ali forcing a save from Al Sheeb early. But the promise of a free-flowing contest was nipped soon, with fouls creeping into the game at increasing regularity. Players almost came to blows at one point, but better sense prevailed.

Duhail brought in their new signing Iraqi Mohanad Ali midway through the second half, but he couldn’t make much of an impact. Al Sadd too couldn’t make any headway at the other end, but they left the pitch hard done by, with their penalty call going unheeded.

The second leg will be played on August 13.