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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Sadd pin their hopes on home advantage

Having lost the first leg away to Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, Qatari champions Al Sadd hope to turn the tables in the second.
Xavi Hernandez New
Xavi Hernandez IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Qatar champions Al Sadd had a difficult task in front as they headed to Riyadh for the AFC Champions League first-leg quarterfinal against Al Nassr. A 1-2 defeat later, their job has only got harder.

In an absorbing first-leg contest, Nassr were the deserving winners, cashing in on Sadd’s defensive fallibilities. But Sadd are not out of the race, however hard it might be, asserted their coach Xavi Hernandez.

“We might have lost this game, but we haven’t lost out on progression,” said Xavi after the match.

“We’ve another match in Doha and we still have a chance to qualify for the semifinal. I’ve told my players we must fight until the last moment,” he added.

Xavi’s men, though beaten, were not disgraced in Riyadh. They were up against an aggressive rival keen to make their home advantage count. Despite being on the back foot from the start, Sadd did take the lead through Ali Asad in the 21st minute before letting slip the advantage.
Goals from Abdulrahman Al Dossari and Brazilian Giuliano hurt Sadd, especially the second one, very much a soft strike. Sadd did attack more in the second half, but could not get the breakthrough they desperately sought.

Xavi, who suffered his first defeat as coach in five matches, was clearly upset with his team’s play in the first half.

“Al Nassr are a strong team and we weren’t up to the task,” said Xavi. “We didn’t play good football. We didn’t control the ball in the required manner and we didn’t have possession. I’m not happy,” he said.

Xavi felt that just when his team was raising its level, Nassr struck the second goal which arrested their momentum.

“In the second half, the teams matched each other. But just when we started to impose ourselves on the game, we conceded the second goal and that affected us a lot,” he said.

Xavi will be banking on home advantage when the teams meet again in Doha on September 16 in the second leg. Having experienced the Al Nassr way, the Spaniard will be better prepared then.

“The second leg will be a lot different. We must prepare for it well so that we can progress to the next round,” said Xavi.

In between, Sadd has a QSL game against Al Shahania on Saturday. Many of their players will also be on national duty, featuring in the Asian Cup qualifiers. Qatar meet Afghanistan on September 5 and India five days later, both at home.

Busy days are ahead, but there is plenty to hope for and dream about for Xavi’s men.