Newly-crowned QNB Stars League champions Al Sadd pulled off a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in the fourth round of 2019 AFC Champions League Group D in Doha on Monday.
Goals from Spanish midfield master Xavi Hernandez (ninth minute) and ace Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah (87th minute) earned Al Sadd a hard-fought win.
The two teams had played out a 2-2 draw a fortnight ago in Tashkent and a single point separated them before kick-off, as Pakhtakor topped the group with five points.
Al Sadd needed just 10 minutes to take the lead through Xavi who, just as in the previous game, curled a free-kick into the top corner of Sanjar Kuvvatov’s net.
Dostonbek Khamdamov had a golden chance to equalise for Pakhtakor when Egor Krimets’ cross found him in space inside the Al Sadd box. Khamdamov volleyed from close range, but the ball passed just wide of the upright.
Farrukh Sayfiev crossed for Marat Bikmaev whose header was tipped over the bar by Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad Al Dossari in the 29th minute.
Just a minute later, Pakhtakor got their equaliser. Khamdamov’s in-swinging cross was nodded on by Sherzod Azamov into the path of Krimets at the far post and the Pakhtakor captain headed it into the back of the net to draw his side level at the half-hour mark.
Xavi nearly scored his third free-kick in two matches in the 75th minute. The Spanish midfielder rifled from 30 yards out, but Kuvvatov stretched to make the save at the top corner.
Two minutes later, the Uzbek goalkeeper was again well-positioned to deny Xavi. This time, the Al Sadd captain received Hassan Al Haydous’ pass inside the box and fired, but Kuvvatov punched the ball away to safety, keeping his side in the game once again.
The winning goal for Al Sadd came three minutes from time through Bounedjah, who dispossessed Pakhtakor defender Azamov and exchanged passes with Xavi before slotting home his second in this edition of the competition.
Al Sadd now top Group D with seven points.