Al Sadd secure ACL knockout stage spot
Doha: Qatar’s Al Sadd qualified for the knockout stage of the 2018 AFC Champions League after Baghdad Bounedjah’s brace propelled them to a 2-1 win over UAE’s Al Wasl in their Matchday Five encounter on Monday.
The visitors came off the blocks racing and were in front inside nine minutes, when Bounedjah pounced on Abdulrahman Ali’s underhit back-pass before calmly slotting past Yousif Abdulla to give Al Sadd an early breakthrough.
In the 29th minute, Bounedjah set up skipper Xavi Hernandez to tap in from close range but the effort was ruled out after the former was deemed to be in an offside position. Al Sadd went on to have a flurry of chances but were unable to add to their lead for the remainder of the first half.
Right after the restart, Al Wasl finally mustered their first dangerous attempt, with Ronaldo Mendes curling in a fine free-kick which was kept out by goalkeeper Saad Al Dosari.
Al Sadd then extended their advantage in the 59th minute, when Bounedjah scored his seventh goal of the tournament. The Algerian helped launch a rapid breakaway from Al Sadd’s own half before converting Akram Afif’s low cross with a back-heeled finish.
Bounedjah almost completed his hat-trick in the final minute after being set up by Afif once again, but the striker somehow miscued his shot with the goal at his mercy. Deep into added on time, Al Wasl pulled a goal back after Caio Canedo’s deft finish crept past Al Dosari.
The result sees Al Sadd secure a spot in the Round of 16 alongside Group C rivals Persepolis, with both sides set to face off on Tehran on Matchday Six to decide who gets the top spot. Al Wasl stay bottom of the table after a fifth straight defeat and will now play FC Nasaf aiming to clinch a consolation win.