DOHA (AFP) – Qatar’s Al Sadd made the last 16 of the Asian Champions League after Group D rivals Sepahan and Al Ain could only manage a goalless draw.
A 1-1 draw for Xavi’s side against Al Nassr made no difference to their qualification, but was a more muted display in front of goal after scoring seven goals in two matches since the tournament resumed last week following a seven-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Al Sadd, who won the tournament in 2011, had a great chance to go ahead as early as the fifth minute but Baghdad Bounedjah, who was the beneficiary of a measured pass from South Korea international Nam Tae-he, fired wide from close range.
Goalkeeper Brad Jones then came to Al Nassr’s rescue later with a fine save to foil Al Sadd captain Hassan al-Haydos after Akram Afif had done most of the spadework on the left.
A few minutes later, Al Nassr’s Abdulfattah Adam challenged Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb with a stinging shot but the latter was equal to the task and cleared the danger.
Al-Sheeb however displayed a lack of technique in the 22nd minute when Khalid al-Ghannam drilled the ball through his legs from a tight angle to give Al Nassr the lead.
After a few more chances were fluffed by both teams, Al Sadd finally found the net three minutes from time, with Bounedjah firing home after receiving the ball via Afif and Nam.
“It was a tough game. We were not good enough in the first half, and in the second half we were better,” said Xavi.
“Today, we showed two faces of the team in the two halves. I’m angry with the first half, and happy with the second.
“I told the players that we had to change our values, the rhythm and the mentality, and this happened in the second half. We scored the goal and we got a good point against a strong team.”
Elsewhere Brazilian striker Welliton scored a hat-trick as the UAE’s Sharjah thrashed Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun 6-0.
Sharjah, who were languishing at the bottom of Group C with just four points from as many matches, climbed to third spot, while Qatar’s Al Duhail are on top with nine after beating Iran’s Persepolis 1-0 in an earlier match on Monday.
Sharjah and Persepolis are on seven points and Al Taawoun are on six, leaving Group C wide open with all four teams still capable of making the cut.
Sharjah scored five of their goals in the second half after Saif Rashid had given them the lead in the first minute of first-half stoppage time.
Welliton netted in the 49th, 57th and 61st minutes while Mohamed Abdulbasit and Ciao each scored to complete Sharjah’s victory.
In the early Group C match, Almoez Ali scored for Al Duhail from the spot in the 60th minute after Shojae Khalilzadeh’s foul on Edmilson resulted in a penalty.
Isa al-Kasir missed the chance to level when he fired wide in front of an open goal after Al Duhail goalkeeper Mohamed al-Bakri spilt the ball into his path off a Bashar Resan shot.