Al Sadd in AFC Champions League semifinal
Top QNB Stars League side Al Sadd booked their berth in the semifinal of AFC Champions League after a 2-2 draw in the second leg of their quarterfinal clash with Iran’s Esteghlal gave them a 5-3 aggregate win.
Al Sadd will face Iran's Persepolis in the semifinal.
The game’s first shot on target came in the 15th minute when Esteghlal midfielder Mehdi Ghayedi’s effort was kept out by Al Sadd goalkeeper Meshaal Barshim.
The hosts took time to settle into the game, but showed just how dangerous they can be as the first half went on. Hassan Al Haydous fashioned a goalscoring opportunity out of nothing in the 26th minute, topping off a great run with a stinging shot, forcing a save out of Mehdi Rahmati.
Just a minute later, Al Sadd broke the deadlock through Akram Afif. The youngster picked up Baghdad Bounedjah’s lay-off in the box before lashing in an unstoppable shot past Rahmati to give his side a 4-1 aggregate lead.
Esteghlal replied in the 32nd minute when they equalised with the help of some good fortune. Rouhollah Bagheri’s strike was fumbled by Barshim and the ball fell into the net, levelling the score on the night.
In the second half, Esteghlal went on the attack with added vigour and were rewarded four minutes in, when Morteza Tabrizi rose highest to head in Farshid Esmaeili’s delivery to put the visitors 2-1 ahead.
Needing just a goal to level the aggregate score, Esteghlal were rising in confidence, but they were struck with a blow in the 50th minute when Rouzbeh Cheshmi was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Afif then had a shot crash off the left post in the 55th minute, but the game’s complexion had changed by then. Al Sadd managed to hold their own against their 10-man opponents for the remainder of the game, before being gifted a penalty deep into added time after Rahmati brought down Afif inside the box.
Tournament top scorer Bounedjah stepped up to score his 12th goal of the campaign to confirm his side’s progression into the semifinals.
Al Sadd now face two more encounters against Persepolis in the semi-final, having played the Iranian side in the group stage.