Baghdad Bounedjah scored twice and provided the assist for another goal as former champions Al Sadd of Qatar turned on the pace and style to thrash Al Ain 4-0 in Group D of the Asian Champions League yesterday.
Xavi’s Al Sadd had featured in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Al Ain when the teams clashed on Tuesday, a result that had disappointed the Barcelona and Spain great who called upon his team to show more purpose in their remaining matches.
Yesterday they responded in emphatic fashion in the reverse fixture with a scintillating display that sent inaugural Champions League winners crashing out of the tournament with just one point to show after four games..
Bounedjah put 2011 winners Al Sadd ahead in the 26th minute with a crisp shot after receiving a perfect pass from 2019 AFC Player of the Year Akram Afif.
Al Sadd consolidated in the 56th minute, this time Afif sliding in to meet a cross from Bounedjah as the Al Ain defence was found wanting.
Kodjo Laba almost pulled one back for Al Ain with a great solo effort but his powerful shot was deflected away by Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb.
Bounedjah, the top scorer in the 2018 tournament with 13 goals, recorded his second goal in the 70th minute when he grabbed a pass from the hard-working Santi Cazorla and hammered the ball past Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eissa.
Brazilian veteran Rodrigo Tabata, who came in as a substitute in the 73rd minute, put the match to bed with a fine shot to the roof of the net in the 86th minute.
Xavi was beaming after his side’s victory.
Speaking at the post-match press conference, Xavi said: “We are very happy with this win. We played a great game. It was a big performance from us. Everything was perfect – attack, defence, set-pieces. We also had luck as they had some chances, but this is football.”
“Everyone did a good job today; they were focused on our organisation and game model.”
The Spaniard added: “We created more chances compared to the last game, and we were more effective.”
“We are in a good position in the group now. This is an important win, but we need to keep going. I’m very happy, especially for the players, we now need to recover well and focus on the next game.”
“Our first goal is to qualify for the next round. If we play like we did today, we can qualify.”As for Rodrigo Tabata’s goal, the coach said: “I’m the happiest person for Tabata. Yesterday, I told the players that he’s an example for them. He’s almost 40, but it’s not an accident that he scored. He is special, he has a big heart and everybody loves him. He is a big, big example for all of us, the players and the technical staff.”
Bounedjah was also pleased with his and the team’s performance.
“We came into the game with a lot of focus and controlled the game completely,” said the Algerian.
“We wasted a few chances in the first half, but in the second half, we increased our focus and got the 4-0 win.”
He added: “The next game against Al Nassr will be tougher and we must prepare well for it.”
Bounedjah said his main job is to help the team’s cause.
“Whether I score doesn’t matter to me, all that I try to do is to help the team. What matters to me is the team, and I promise everyone that I will give all I can in every game.”
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