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Al Sadd produce ’best performace yet’ to seal AFC Champions League semis spot

  • 16 September 2019
  • Author: QT01
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Al Sadd produce ’best performace yet’ to seal AFC Champions League semis spot
Ayeni Olusegun
Doha
Al Sadd produced an electric performance to beat Al Nassr 3-1 (4-3 aggregate) at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium to book a semi-final spot in the AFC Champions League. This was the first time The Wolves have overturned a first leg deficit in Asia's prestigious club tournament -- sealing a second straight semis spot for Xavi Hernandez's side.
Goals from Akram Afif (26 min), Hassan al Haydos (59) and a Baghdad Bounedjah 83rd minute penalty were enough for the Qatari champions despite former Al Rayyan man Abderazak Hamdellah's 33rd minutes strike for the visitors. 
Al Sadd needed to come out firing after losing the first leg in Riyadh 2-1 and from the blast of the whistle the Wolves were out hunting as Haydos sent a warning shot at Brad Jones early on.
Al Nassr's Brazilian forward Giuliano almost silenced the over 13,000 Al Sadd fans when he was played through by Amrabat but his effort didn't trouble Saad al Sheeb.
The crowd urged on Al Sadd and the team responded on the pitch as Afif headed home the opener four minutes from the half hour mark.
The pacey winger finished a move he started when Bounedjah fed Nam Tae-Hee down the left and the midfielder's cross found Afif who guided the ball in two yards from goal.
The visitors however, levelled scores just past the half hour mark. Hamdellah was fouled just outside the box and the Moroccan's freekick took a wicked deflection off Gabi -- wrong-footing Al Sheeb in goal.
Al Sadd began the second half where they left off and Nam saw his goalbound effort blocked for a corner.
The 2011 champions continued to press the visitors who banked on catching the Wolves on a counter. Just before the hour mark, Haydos who was part of the last successful Al Sadd team in Asia scored a goal of the season contender, sending the fans into a frenzy. 
The national team captain intercepted an attempted Al Nassr counter attack, exchanged quick passes with Nam before sending a thunderous strike into the top right corner of Jones's goal.
"We are happy with our performance, the players' passion and commitment was there. Our victory is well deserved and I'm proud to coach players with this mentality. This is the best game we have played this season and the fans were spectacular today," an excited Xavi said after the match.
With aggregate score level between both sides, Afif provided a moment of brilliance with just 10 minutes left on the clock. A first-time through pass from Haydos set up a one-on-one chance for Afif, and with the goalie at his mercy, the 22-year-old was  brought down by Abdullah Madu, prompting the referee to point to the spot.
After a few minutes of complains from the Al Nassr bench, Bounedjah held his nerves to send his effort into the bottom right corner -- ending a four-game barren run in front of goal for the prolific Algerian.
"Haydos deserves the praises today, he works for the team normally but I'm very happy for him and his performance today," Xavi added of his vice-captain.
Al Sadd will take on the winner of Tuesday's clash between Al Hilal and Al Ittihad in the semi-final next month.
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