By Sports Reporter Doha
Xavi Hernandez couldn’t contain his excitement on Monday night after Al Sadd knocked out Saudi giants Al Nassr to advance to the semi-finals of the prestigious AFC Champions League.
The Spanish legend leapt high and punched the air like he would have done several times as a star player for Barcelona, Spain and Al Sadd after scoring or providing the assist for a goal.
He warmly hugged his players beaming ear to ear after living up to the expectations of his club’s demanding fans who were present in large numbers at the Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium to support the team.
Al Sadd lost the first leg 1-2 in Riyadh but bounced back to win the second leg 3-1 to go through to the semi-finals for the second consecutive year with a 4-3 aggregate.
Speaking at the post-match press conference, Xavi said: “Thanks to all those who congratulated us for the win. We are very happy with the result and the excellent performance. We gave an unbelievable performance. In the first leg, we did not play well but we did what was required tonight and we deserve to go through. The Al Sadd players have a winning mentality and they will continue like this in the upcoming games.”
He added: “I took up the Al Sadd coaching role a month and a half back only. I am very happy with what we have achieved.”
The coach also said: “We managed to control the game and so I was not too worried. It was one of the best matches we have played this season.”
“I take this opportunity to salute the fans whose support was excellent. They are one of the reasons for this win. They were part of the game today. Their support had a clear effect on the players, and on me as well.
“We need them not only in these matches but throughout the season. They are fans who want to win titles and we will win titles with them. They were brilliant today.”
Xavi also praised man-of-the-match Hassan al-Haydos, saying: “Al-Haydos is an example. I told him many times that he is an excellent role model. He has leadership qualities. He is one of the best players in the Middle East, and not just Qatar.”
Al-Haydos was in the thick of all the action and scored the second of Al Sadd’s goals in Al Sadd’s win.
The performance earned al-Haydos the man-of-the-match accolade.
Speaking to the media after the game, al-Haydos said: “This win did not come about easily. It required a lot of effort from the Al Sadd players. We got a very important victory which took us to the semi-finals.”
“The match was not easy but we managed to make things go our way and came through with the win. We took advantage of their weak points and gave an excellent display.”
Asked about what happened at halftime, when the score was 1-1, al-Haydos said: “The coach spoke to us calmly. Xavi told us something very important which increased our desire to win: he said that he trusts us and that we should enjoy our game. Without a doubt, those words were a boost to the players. We played excellently in the second half and we clinched victory.”
He added: “The performance today was better than the away leg and we are happy that we have won this game. I want to thank all those who came to support us; it was an ideal atmosphere. The fans were the biggest stars behind this victory.”
Meanwhile, Al Nassr head coach Rui Vitoria praised his players’ performance but was left to rue several minor mistakes as the Saudi Arabia champions exited the tournament.
“I’m sad because of this defeat and the exit from the competition,” said Vitoria in the post-match press conference.
“I’m not sad because of the performance of the players who had a good match tonight,” he explained. “It is because there were some minor details that caused the defeat.”
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