By Sports Reporter/Doha
A four-goal blitz without reply put Al Sadd on the brink of the last 16 stage of the AFC Champions League yesterday as the Qatar giants avenged their defeat to Uzbekistan’s Nasaf in sensational style.
Last week Nasaf had scored an upset 1-0 win as Al Sadd failed to get together in the southern Uzbek city of Qarshi in a match in which they clearly missed their inspirational captain Xavi who was rested after picking up a back injury.
Their troubles didn’t seem to end there as they also lost to Umm Salal in a crucial QNB Stars League match to allow Al Duhail to walk away with the title with two rounds remaining.
But with the Spanish and Barcelona legend back in action yesterday, their luck changed dramatically as they took the lead with just three minutes on the clock.
That the goal came from Xavi himself was the icing on the cake for the team, the skipper turning in a pass from Boaulem Khoukhi to put Al Sadd ahead in front of their home fans at the Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
It was Xavi’s first-ever goal in the AFC Champions League and it set the stage for Al Sadd’s complete domination of the Uzbeks who rarely had a shot at goal and spent most of the time chasing shadows.
Al Sadd doubled their lead in the 16th minute and this time it was a defender who got on the scoresheet. Full-back Abdelkarim Hassan finished off a surging solo run from the halfway line with a fierce strike that left Nasaf keeper Sanjar Kuvvatov with no chance of saving.
Baghdad Bounedjah then gave the Qatari side a comfortable 3-0 cushion at half time, with the Algerian netting his fifth goal of the tournament with an acrobatic overhead kick in the 43rd minute.
Fellow Algerian Jugurtha Hamroun, who had provided the assist for Bounedjah, got a goal of his own in the 71st minute, smashing in a low shot past Kuuvatov to round off a quick counter-attack.
“I have no complaints with the way we played today,” said Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira. “Xavi’s early goal set the stage and inspired the boys. All in all it was a comprehensive victory for us,” he added.
The big win sends Al Sadd to the top of Group C with nine points from four games, and leaves them needing four points to qualify for the Round of 16. They host bottom of the group Al Wasl on Matchday Five when Nasaf welcome Persepolis to Uzbekistan.
An Al Sadd win coupled with Nasaf failing to beat Persepolis would see the Qatari and Iranian sides advance with a game to spare.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz continued their winless run after drawing 1-1 at home with Al Jazira of the UAE.
Tractorsazi started brightly and had a number of opportunities to go ahead in the first half, but were denied a goal by some stellar goalkeeping by Al Jazira’s Ali Khaseif.
While the hosts enjoyed clear domination, it was Al Jazira who opened the scoring against the run of play, in the 44th minute. Brazilian star Romarinho latched on to an aerial pass from defender Musallam Fayez and slotted in the first goal of the match.
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