(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Fawad Hussain |
Doha, Qatar: Former champions Al Sadd yesterday defeated Sharjah 2-0 at their home ground to stay in contention for a place in the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League.
With both sides squaring off following a goalless draw in the first leg in Doha, Al Sadd looked resolute at the Sharjah Stadium to bag three crucial points and keep their chances alive for a Round of 16 spot.
Gonzalo Plata took the Wolves ahead after a rebound from Akram Afif's attempt in the ninth minute while Baghdad Bounedjah sealed the win with a 60th-minute header from a fine cross by Pedro Miguel. Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham also played a key role making crucial saves for the 2011 champions in the away game.
“We achieved a morale-boosting win that keeps our chances alive until the last round. I'm proud of the players and thankful for their performance, which earned us three vital points,” Wesam Rizik said while expressing his delight on the winning start as Al Sadd's coach.
The result put Al Sadd on seven points, three points behind Nasaf FC, who climbed to the top of Group B after a 3-1 victory over Al Faisaly yesterday. The Wolves – placed third in the group – are also trailing Sharjah by a point.
The last round of Group B games on December 4 would decide the fate of the teams with Al Sadd looking to beat Nasaf at home, and hoping Al Faisaly to stun Sharjah in their home tie in Amman. The group winners will enter the Round of 16 stage alongside three runners-up with the best records in West Asia.
Yesterday, Afif's fine low hit from outside the box was blocked by Sharjah goalkeeper Darwish Mohammed but he had no solution for Plata, who was ready to convert the rebound to hand Al Sadd the lead.
Barsham saved Al Sadd from an own goal, stopping a header by Miguel, who was trying to clear a free kick by Miralem Pjanic in the 26th minute.
In the second half, Miguel set up Bounedjah for Al Sadd's second goal firing a cross from the left for the Algeria star to slot in from the edge of the six-yard box. Barsham stopped Sharjah from making a comeback, brilliantly blocking Caio Lucas' angular shot from a close range on the left corner with 10 minutes remaining.
“It was a difficult match but we achieved what was needed to keep our chances of advancing,” Afif said after the match.
“We faced some setbacks in previous games, but as players, we are focused on performing at our best. Now, we are looking forward to our league [Expo Stars League] match against Al Shamal.”
Al Duhail's players celebrate after Michael Olunga (left) scored their second goal.
Al Duhail eliminated despite victory
Meanwhile, a pair of Michael Olunga's headers in the second half gave hosts Al Duhail a 2-0 victory over Istiklol in Group E at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium yesterday.
After a goalless first half, Olunga connected an Isaac Lihadji's deflected cross for the opening goal two minutes into the second half. Istiklol goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov had apparently saved the header but a VAR check confirmed the ball had crossed the goal line.
Almoez Ali could have doubled the lead in the 71st minute but he squandered the golden opportunity to score Al Duhail's second goal heading the ball wide from a close range off a cross by Olunga.
The Kenyan striker, however, headed his second goal, slotting in an Ismaeel Mohammad's cross from the right with one minute left in time.
Al Duhail retained their lead for their first win in this season's competition despite a red card to Ruben Semedo for a foul against Shervoni Mabatshoev in stoppage time.
The Red Knights, however, were eliminated after Al Nassr and Persepolis played out a goalless draw in Riyadh later yesterday.
Al Nassr are leading the group with 13 points followed by Persepolis, who have eight points. Al Duhail are third with four points while Istiklol are on the bottom with two points.
Al Duhail, who reached the semi-finals last season, will play for pride against Persepolis on December 5.
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