Two Group D draws send Al Sadd to knockouts
September 22 2020 01:45 AM
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Al Sadd’s Baghdad Bounedjah (right) celebrates his goal during the AFC Champions League Group D matc
Al Sadd’s Baghdad Bounedjah (right) celebrates his goal during the AFC Champions League Group D match against Al Nassr at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium yesterday. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil

Agencies /Doha

Al Sadd left it late to secure a valuable point as Baghdad Bounedjah helped them to a 1-1 draw against Al Nassr on Matchday Five of the 2020 AFC Champions League Group D yesterday.
After Sepahan played out a goalless draw against Al Ain in another Group D match later yesterday, the Qatari club’s nine points from the group stage were good enough to send them through to the Round of 16 with Al Nassr (11 points).
Yesterday, both Al Sadd and Al Nassr proved why they are the top scoring sides in the competition with chances coming as early as the fifth minute of play, when Bounedjah squandered an excellent chance to break the deadlock when he fired wide, after a beautifully weighted pass from Korea Republic man Nam Tae-hee.
Another chance fell to the Qatar Stars League side when Akram Afif cut inside from the left flank and started a string of pitch-wide passes that went through Nam and Bounedjah before Hassan al-Haydos angled a shot into the top corner, but Brad Jones’ acrobatic brilliance denied the Al Sadd captain.
Abdulfatah Adam was responsible for missing the first big chance that fell to the Saudi Pro League side, after Guilherme was dispossessed in midfield, the result of which was a high ball that Adam chased down before lashing a stinging shot on goal that keeper Saad Al Sheeb pushed out.
The first goal came through Khalid Al Ghannam, after receiving a throw in down the left flank, he dribbled into the penalty area and took on marker Pedro Miguel before taking a shot from an extremely tight angle that rolled between the keeper’s legs and settled into the net.
Intensity petered out as the game progressed with fatigue setting in, but Nam had a golden chance to equalise five minutes from time when Afif carefully lifted a ball across the box to youngster Yusuf Abdurisag, who headed it down for the Korea Republic international but the latter missed it.
Three minutes from time, Bounedjah gifted his side a point when he curled the ball into Jones’ net after Afif had played a ground pass to Nam, the number 10 beautifully played the Algeria international in to finish off.
Al Sadd head coach Xavi Hernandez said his team displayed “two faces during the two halves” of the game.
Speaking at the post-match press conference, Xavi said: “It was a tough game. We were not good enough in the first half, and in the second half we were better.”
“We had to play in the first half, like we did in the second. Today, we showed two faces of the team in the two halves. I’m angry with the first half, and happy with the second.”
He added: “We have to change and improve our performance, but we are satisfied with the point. We played against a strong team, which is one of the best in the competition.”
Asked about what he told the players at halftime, the coach said: “I have to be honest, I told the players that we had to change our values: the rhythm, and the mentality, and this happened in the second half. We scored the goal and we got a good point against a strong team.”
With regards to the team’s defensive performance, Xavi said: “I don’t think that we have a problem with the defence. We just conceded one goal in two games. We have other problems. In the first half, we had problems with our attitude, intensity and rhythm.”
As for his team’s chances of competing for the title, Xavi said: “It’s too early to talk about competing for the title. First, we have to qualify (for the next stage). We still haven’t qualified. It needs one more game, and it also depends on the result of the other game (Sepahan – Al Ain).”
“We have to go step by step; otherwise, we will make a mistake. It’s very difficult to win the competition, and there are many good clubs. Our first objective is to reach the round of 16, and then we will see.”



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