Al Sadd lose dramatic contest in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi: Hamza Sanhaji scored twice but ultimately missed the decisive penalty in the shootout as Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates advanced to the group stage of the AFC Champions League after edging out Qatar’s Al Sadd 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra-time on Tuesday.
Sanhaji opened the scoring for 2011 AFC Champions League winners Al Sadd after 23 minutes only for Kenwyne Jones to equalise for Al Jazira on the stroke of half-time before Ali Mabkhout’s 66th minute free-kick put the home side ahead.
Al Jazira were denied the win in normal time as Sanhaji equalised for Al Sadd with two minutes remaining before Khalfan Ibrahim missed a stoppage-time penalty for visitors.
But with Spanish midfielder Xavi Hernandez and Iran defender Morteza Pouraliganji also missing for Al Sadd, Al Jazira ultimately prevailed in sudden death to earn their place in Group C alongside Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, and Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz.
“I want to thank the players for the great effort they made tonight as they were determined to win and we achieved what we were looking for. The match was not easy, but we were better and deserved to win,” saidAl Jazira coach Henk Ten Cate.
“I want to thank our goalkeeper Ali Khasief for the performance he made because he gave us a lot of confidence especially after saving the penalty in regular time and his performance in the penalty shootout.
“We will celebrate tonight, but then we will start preparing for the group stage.”
Al Sadd enjoyed a strong start to the contest at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and the visitors opened the scoring midway through the first half as an attempted backpass from Al Jazira defender Khalid Sebil only found Sanhaji and the striker slotted the ball under exposed goalkeeper Ali Khaseif.
Sanhaji almost doubled Al Sadd’s lead five minutes later but his 28th minute header from Nadir Belhadj’s cross came back off the post.
But in the last minute of the first half Al Jazira equalised as Jones directed Thiago Neves’ cross into the far corner with a towering header just out of the reach of goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.
And six minutes after the hour mark the home side completed the turnaround as Mabkhout lifted a free-kick from just outside the area over the wall and into the top corner following a foul on Park Jong-woo.
But with just two minutes remaining Sanhaji was on hand to level the tie as the striker fired past Khaseif after receiving a long pass from the back and surging into the penalty area.
And Al Sadd almost completed a dramatic comeback in stoppage time, but after being fouled inside the area, Ibrahim was unable to convert from the spot as Khaseif came out on top to send the tie into extra-time.
And after extra-time failed to separate the sides, Al Jazira held their nerve to advance despite Salim Rashed and Thiago Neves missing for the home side.
“We deserved to win today, but Al Jazira had the advantage of playing at home and in front of their fans for 120 minutes and this is what I was afraid of,”saidAl Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira.
“We controlled the first half but we failed to finish it with a good lead.
“The first goal for Al Jazira gave them a big push and they were the better side in the second half. We should have won the match in the last minutes but we couldn’t score from the penalty.”