By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Sadd head coach Xavi expressed his delight after the Qatar Stars League champions sealed a place in the 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday. Al Sadd saw off the challenge of Qatar rivals Al Duhail, scoring a 3-1 win in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie to advance 4-2 on aggregate.
Strikes by Akram Afif, Abdelkarim Hassan and an own goal by Ahmed Yasser secured Al Sadd the win but Spain and Barcelona legend Xavi said it was a team effort that took Al Sadd to a quarter-final tie against Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr.
“We are very happy to qualify for the quarter-finals. I am very happy with the team because they did an outstanding job. As I had said earlier, Al Duhail are one of the best teams in the Middle East with players who have played together for 7-8 years. So our achievement is amazing.”
The win also sealed Al Sadd’s place in the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, which will be played in Qatar. Xavi, who took charge of Al Sadd as head coach after having served them as a player for four seasons, said his team had shown consistency over both legs.
“Our players gave an unbelievable performance over the two games. At Al Wakrah in the first leg, we were the better side but today, we were only good in the first half.”
“They made things very difficult for us in the second half. We created and missed chances but I have been working on a new philosophy with the team for the last three weeks. I am very happy that we have qualified, I am very happy for the players. Our work continues now, next up we have the Sheikh Jassim Cup match (the Qatar season opener against Al Duhail).”
As for the quarter-final clash with Al Nassr, Xavi said: “It will be a tough game against Al Nassr, we saw their game yesterday – they have excellent players but our aim will be to reach the semis. But now, the team is celebrating and we will then think about the Sheikh Jassim Cup, after that, the league and then, the AFC Champions League.”
Al Nassr will host the first leg on August 26 with the second leg three weeks later.
When he was compared with current Manchester City and former Barcelona, Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, Xavi replied: “It’s just the beginning of my career, of course I want to be successful but don’t compare me with Guardiola. At this moment, he is the best coach in the world.”
Xavi also spoke about the way the team changed their approach by bringing in Khoukhi Boualem in the second half. “We were suffering with the long balls in the second half, and so we brought on Khoukhi to deal with it. Not just that but he also has a great personality and leadership skills so it was great to have him on for the last thirty minutes or so. After he came on, we changed our system a bit, with four defenders instead of three and two defensive midfielders. As I said, we didn’t play Khoukhi last time just because he had joined the training camp late. But he is one of the best players in Qatar.”
Meanwhile, Al Sadd striker Baghdad Bounedjah spoke of his delight after his side progressed to the quarter-finals. “I am very happy to qualify for the next stage. We played for the win from the first minute. Our only goal was to get the victory. We want to thank the fans, who supported us in both legs,” the Algerian said.
“We still have a lot of work to do. We need to prepare for the Sheikh Jassim Cup match, which we wish to win as well. The team’s objective is to compete for all the titles, both in the Champions League and at home. We hope fortune will be on our side,” he added.
Sadd midfielder Tarek Salman spoke about the difficulty of their game against Duhail. “The match wasn’t easy from the very beginning, as we had expected. But we played for the win and managed to secure things in our favour. We controlled the game, despite the continued efforts of Al Duhail to try and equalise,” Salman said.
“We are delighted that we managed to make our fans happy. They supported us with great force in this tough game. We look forward to seeing their support again in all the upcoming games, be it in the Super Cup, QSL or in the Champions League, in which we are looking to go to the farthest point,” he added.
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