By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Sadd beat Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia in the Round of 16.
QNB Stars League sides Al Duhail and Al Sadd were both drawn against Iranian teams in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals. QNB Stars League champions Duhail will take on Iran Pro League winner Persepolis, while Al Sadd will face Esteghlal FC. The draw ceremony was held at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
If both Duhail and Al Sadd prevail in the quarters, then the Qatar sides will lock horns in the semi-finals. The first leg of the quarter-final matches will be played from August 27 to 29, while the return legs are scheduled for September from 17 to 19.
Buoyed by their treble winning season, Al Duhail have now set their eyes on the AFC Champions League. Duhail, who lifted the Amir Cup last Saturday to add to the Qatar Stars League and Qatar Cup titles won earlier, have carried their domestic form onto the continental stage.
They are on the brink of an AFC Champions League record, having scored eight straight victories en route to qualifying for the quarter-finals and were the team to avoid in the draw.
Coach Djamel Belmadi has said there will be no letting up as Al Duhail will look to improve despite such an impressive season. “We are always improving. Players like Sultan al-Brake and Bassam Hisham are all improving, and Almoez Ali still has scope for improvement. It is a continuous process,” Belmadi said last week.
“It’s a great season, of course. Huge achievement from the club and we cannot expect more. We took all the trophies, we won all the competitions, and we are in the quarter-finals of (the AFC) Champions League with eight victories,” the Algerian added.
Duhail will first welcome Persepolis for the first leg, before travelling to Iran for the second leg. Persepolis have yet to win the AFC Champions League and after a semi-final exit in 2017, Branko Ivankovic’s charges will be aiming for the title.
Two-time champions Al Sadd will be up against Esteghlal FC, who were crowned the Asian champions 27 years ago. Winfried Schäfer’s side will be aiming to return to glory and a third title but Sadd will provide a tough challenge to the Iranians.
Sadd, who were grouped alongside Persepolis in Group C, had an eventful 2018 campaign where they recorded four wins and two losses to finish as the group runners-up behind the Iranians.
They met Al Ahli Saudi FC in the Round of 16, where two first half goals from Boualem Khoukhi secured them a 2-1 win in the first leg.
In the return leg, Algerian forward Baghdad Bounedjah gave Al Sadd a dream start with a goal in the second minute but Al Ahli’s Claudemir de Souza equalised less than seven minutes later and took the lead through Muhannad Assiri going through into the half-time break.
However, Jesualdo Ferreira’s men bounced back in the 70th minute when Bounedjah scored the equaliser to secure their spot in the quarter-finals 4-3 on aggregate.
Meanwhile, Kashima Antlers from Japan, who have not gone beyond the quarter-finals stage, will welcome China PR’s Tianjin Quanjian, who have performed spectacularly in their first appearance in the AFC Champions League, and are certainly looking to extend their run.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, champions in 2006 and 2016, will lock horns with fellow Korea Republic side Suwon Samsung Bluewings, who have also won the title twice - in the 2000/01 and 2001/02 seasons.
*Esteghlal (IRN) vs Al Sadd (QAT)
*Al Duhail (QAT) vs Persepolis (IRN)
*Kashima Antlers (JPN) vs Tianjin Quanijian (CHN)
*Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR)
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