Friday, 14 May 2021 06:45 GMT

Qatar- Al Sadd, Foolad seek improvements after stalemate

(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Al Sadd head coach Xavi Hernandez may have had high expectations of a win but had to see his side fight for a share of the points in their AFC Champions League Group D opener against Foolad Khouzestan on Wednesday that ended in a 1-1 draw.
Foolad looked to have sealed a famous win through Brazilian striker Chimba's 61st minute goal but Al Sadd fought back and were rewarded by Boualem Khoukhi's 89th minute equaliser.
'We are not happy, because our target for this match was to get all three points, said Xavi. 'We started well, and then in the last few minutes of the first half, they dominated a little bit with set-pieces, but we knew that was how they were going to play.
'We then conceded a goal, and it became difficult because their morale was high and were more organised, but we changed the system by putting Khoukhi in front, and eventually scored.
Al Sadd had to play without the influential Akram Afif, who missed the match because of injury, but Xavi said that wasn't an excuse and urged his side to do better. Al Sadd will face Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr, while Foolad play Jordan's Al Wehdat tomorrow.
'It's not a bad point, because Al Nassr and Al Wehdat also drew. We have to keep going even though we are not happy.
'I talked about how difficult this group was. This is the AFC Champions League, and we're playing against the best teams in Asia, this is the reality. We are going to improve, recover and keep going.
'We are going to miss Akram Afif for sure, he's one of the best players in Qatar and in Asia. But this is not an excuse for the draw today. We still dominated the game, controlled possession and created more chances than the opponent. We didn't do very well, but we didn't perform badly, and we need to improve.
Foolad were denied a win but head coach Jesus Javier Noble believes the draw will drive his inexperienced side to improve.
'Not losing the first match of the tournament is not bad, but we would have won if our players were more experienced, said Noble. 'We had a lot of young players, who are not really experienced in these kind of situations.
'It wasn't that our players lost concentration, but they were not experienced enough to control the match.
Foolad, however, can walk away with their heads held high, knowing that they can challenge an established team like Qatar champions Al Sadd.
'We went into the second half more focused than before, and scored a goal near the hour-mark. I am happy with my players, they put in a lot of effort against one of the tournament favourites, said Javier Noble.
'It's not a bad result against a team like Al Sadd, especially when they were the ones who were trying to equalise. We competed with 100 percent of our abilities, and all I can say now is that we will be more determined in the following matches.      


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