Qatar’s Al Sadd cruised into the 2019 AFC Champions League’s Round of 16 following their 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli on Monday.
Hosts Al Sadd, who took their points to 10 in Group D, showed their attacking intent from the start in front of home fans, creating their first big chance inside 60 seconds of kick-off. Akram Afif and Xavi Hernandez exchanged passes down the right and the Spanish midfielder squared the ball for Baghdad Bounedjah who took it first time, but Al Ahli goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais showed quick reflexes to catch the ball.
Jesualdo Ferreira’s side looked to apply high press to regain possession deep into the opposition half. Afif was successful in doing so in the ninth minute, when he dispossessed Saeed Al Muwallad before supplying a perfectly-weighted diagonal pass to Ali Asad who controlled and hit on the half-volley with his left past Al Owais for Al Sadd’s first goal.
Al Ahli’s defensive struggles continued as they failed to deal with an Al Sadd corner kick, allowing the ball to fall for Xavi inside the box.
The Al Sadd captain placed the ball into the bottom corner, but Al Owais made the save. Afif was quickest to the spilled ball and finished composedly from a very tight angle to double the hosts’ lead after just 12 minutes.
The first half could have ended with a hammering, had it not been for Al Owais whose goalkeeping skills denied Bounedjah on multiple occasions.
Al Ahli started the second half on the front foot and were rewarded for their attacking efforts with a penalty kick when defender Tarek Salman handled Abdulfattah Assiri’s cross. Omar Al Somah stepped up and drilled home from the spot to reduce the deficit.
Al Owais continued to dominate the individual duel against Bounedjah, making another fine save after the Algerian was sent through on goal by a Xavi through pass.
In the 71st minute, the Algerian was finally successful in beating the Al Ahli keeper, placing his header from Xavi’s cross into the far corner, but Brazilian defender Aderllan Santos produced a heroic goal-line clearance to further frustrate Bounedjah and limit the score to 2-1.