Al Sadd exit AFC Champions League despite beating Al Hilal in second-leg semifinal


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Qatar’s Al Sadd bowed out of the AFC Champions League despite beating Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal 4-2 in their second-leg semifinal at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Al Sadd had lost the first leg 1-4 in Doha, so Al Hilal progressed to the final with a 6-5 aggregate victory.

It was a magnificent display of attacking football as Al Sadd proved too strong for Al Hilal in front of the latter’s home fans.

Al Hilal took the game to their opponents from the start, and within five minutes they had created their first big chance. Bafetimbi Gomis shot wide on the half-volley inside the first 10 minutes.

But Al Hilal produced the opening goal of the night 12 minutes in. Yasser Al Shahrani dribbled down the left and crossed low towards the far post. The ball was cleared by the Al Sadd defence but only as far as Salem Al Dawsari, who controlled and fired home to make it 5-1 on aggregate.

Four minutes later, Al Sadd were given a lifeline after Akram Afif was brought down inside the box. Afif stepped up to take the resulting penalty himself and drilled it into the bottom right corner despite Abdullah Al Mayouf’s best efforts to save.

There were more goals to come soon after. Al Sadd surged ahead in the 19th minute when South Korean midfielder Nam Tae-Hee placed the ball home past a helpless Al Mayouf.

Al Haydous turned from provider to scorer off the very next attack. Al Shahrani failed to deal with a long ball, allowing Nam to advance on goal, his countryman Jang Hyn-Soo made a tackle, but only managed to send the ball into the path of Al Haydous who drilled home Al Sadd’s third in the 20th minute to the shock of the hosts.

The mood swiftly changed as Gomis got on the end of a Sebastian Giovinco diagonal pass, guiding the ball home on the half-volley to bring the aggregate score to 6-4 with just over an hour still to be played.

And if the first half was a festival of goals on both sides, the second was more of a display of half chances and ‘nearly’ moments.

As the final whistle approached, Al Sadd were able to snatch a fifth goal through Boualem Khoukhi. The defender rose highest to power home a header, putting everyone at the ground on their nerve for the remaining minutes of added time.

Al Mayouf saved Nam’s last-second free-kick, confirming Al Hilal’s place in the final.