A spirited Hienghene Sport gave Al Sadd a scare before the hosts won 3-1 in a play-off match as the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar kicked off Wednesday.
At the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Sadd needed extra time to beat Oceania winners Hienghene to seal a place in the quarter-finals against Mexican side Monterrey.
Sadd looked for a comfortable win when Baghdad Bounedjah put them in front in the 26th minute, but Hienghene hit back immediately after half time when Amy Roine drew level.
Al Sadd's Abdelkarim Hassan celebrates after scoring a goal
Al Sadd's Abdelkarim Hassan (third from left) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal
With Sadd players spurning chance after chance, the game went into 30-minute extra time, where Abdelkarim Hassan scored after a howler from Hienghene goalkeeper Rocky Nyikeine, before Pedro Miguel relieved pressure on coach Xavi Hernandez with a strike in the 114th minute.
Qatar league champions Sadd have not been at their best form, having lost three of their last four league matches. And they looked lackluster once again against a Hienghene side, who are made up mostly of part-timers.
Sadd manager was not too happy with his players for wasting plenty of opportunities to score. "We had many chances to score. We concede just a little bit. They didn't look like scoring in the second half apart from early on. We suffered too much, we did more than them but we missed too many chances. Monterrey will be very difficult side on Saturday," the Spaniard said.
Going into Wednesday’s contest, Hienghene were always the underdogs but they battled hard against one of the best teams in Asia. Felix Tagawa’s men were surprise winners of the Oceania Champions League and are the first New Caledonian side to qualify for the Club World Cup. They are based in a remote part of New Caledonia with a population of just 2,500, five hours away from the country’s capital, Noumea.
Hienghene does not possess the quality of Sadd, so it was obvious that they would sit deep and look to attack on counter. While the hosts dominated, Hienghene had their fair share of chances in the first half.
Sadd did have couple of chances in the opening minutes but it was Hienghene who had first real shot at the goal. In the ninth minute, forward Jefferson Dahite’s right footed shot hit the side net.
Four minutes later, Hienghene goalkeeper Rocky Nyikeine, was called into action with Gabi and Bounedjah both trying their luck. Nyikeine, however, was equal to the task, blocking both the shots easily.
Roine, meanwhile was a constant threat to the Sadd defence, and the forward tested Saad al-Sheeb from outside the box with Sadd stopper diving to his left to make a save. In the 25th minute, Roine should have put Hienghene into the lead. Captain Bertrand Kai played in a perfect cross into the box, with Roine having beaten defender Pedro Miguel to the ball but the forward could not add power to his header as al-Sheeb made a regulation save.
Roine was still lamenting his close miss, when Bounedjah made no mistake at the other end to put Sadd ahead. Hassan delivered a cross from the left-hand flank, which was tapped in by Bounedjah. There was a VAR review for the goal with Bounedjah seemed to be offside but a little nick off the defender on the way through meant the Algerian was played onside.
In the 39th minute, Akram Afif thought he had doubled Sadd’s advantage when the Qatari forward had slotted the ball into the net after Boualem Khoukhi’s free kick was palmed away by Nyikeine. But the goal was disallowed after a VAR review by Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal, who deemed Bounedjah had obstructed Nyikeine as he looked to save Afif's follow-up shot.
Hienghene got the second half under way and they equalised within a minute after the break, but not before the visitors were made to wait for the goal to be given. Roine had slotted the ball to the bottom right corner after nudging Khoukhi just outside the box but the referee ruled a foul by Hienghene forward. Upon watching a VAR review, Ghorbal reversed his decision as Roine went on a celebratory run with his teammates joining him.
There was more VAR drama in the 69th minute and Sadd were at the receiving end again. After Nyikeine had denied Bounedjah with a brilliant save, substitute Hassan al-Haydos fierce shot hit the net. But the referee cut short al-Haydos’ celebration after Bounedjah, who had made the pass to his teammates, was offside.
Sadd had numerous chances to finish the game with Afif having couple of golden chances. While the 23-year-old’s header whisked past the post, he was also guilty of shooting wide as the game went to extra time.
While Hienghene continued to defend stoically, a mistake from goalkeeper Nyikeine undid all their good work. After confusion with defender, while clearing a Sadd attempt, Nyikeine gave a back pass to his teammates. With referee awarding a free kick to Sadd inside the box, Hassan blasted past a wall of defenders from close range.
With Hienghene’s spirits crushed, Pedro added another goal with six minutes remaining to keep Sadd in the tournament.