You are in / Article

AFC Champions League – Round of 16 (West): What They Said

Doha: Four teams from West Asia remain in the hunt for a place in the 2020 AFC Champions League final after the one-legged Round of 16 ties took place on Saturday and Sunday.

The quartet of Al Ahli Saudi FC, Al Nassr, Pakhtakor and Persepolis FC move on to Wednesday's quarter-finals while the Continental dream is over for another year for Al Sadd SC, Al Taawoun, Esteghlal FC and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai. Here's how those involved reflected on the weekend's action.

See also :

“The most important thing is that we won the match. We didn’t have our usual performance and it was really difficult as we faced good opponents. We are ready for any team but at the same time, we should not underestimate anyone at this stage of the competition. We have an important match ahead of us and after that, we can think of the semi-finals."

Abdulfattah Asiri (below, left) admitted there is plenty room for improvement after Al Nassr edged past domestic rivals Al Taawoun 1-0 to reach a second successive quarter-final. The Riyadh side will face countrymen once more, with Al Ahli Saudi standing in the way of a place in their first-ever AFC Champions League semi-final.

“We have been together at this club for three years and we made history. This is history for us. We should be satisfied and happy because we did something good for the club and for football in Uzbekistan."

After putting in a Man-of-the-Match performance in Pakhtakor's 2-1 victory over Esteghlal, scorer of the Uzbek side's first goal Dragan Ceran could not hide his delight at reaching the last eight, claiming it was a historic moment for the club, who will appear in their first quarter-final since 2009.

“We had a difficult start. When we came to Qatar we were bottom of the group, but we qualified as top of the group after three very important wins. But the job is not done yet; we have two very important and difficult stages coming up that we need to win to go to the final. I would like to congratulate and thank my players because I know they played with all their heart and they had a sense of honour."

Persepolis head coach Yahya Golmohammadi was full of praise for his team after they continued their excellent run in Qatar by overcoming Al Sadd 1-0 in the last 16 to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in four years. He now has his sights set on reaching the final.

“Matches at this stage are very hard and this is what happened today as we only won by a penalty shootout. All the teams in the knockout stage are big teams and they have reached this stage after hard work. The next stage will be very hard and there will be no easy matches."

The AFC Champions League's oldest-ever player Hussein Abdulghani is primed for more tough matches ahead after the 43-year-old netted in the penalty shootout to help Al Ahli Saudi scrape past Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and into the last eight.

“Everyone knows that you need luck in penalty shootouts. The players gave their best today and they put in a lot of effort but we were not lucky in the penalty shootout. Playing in the competition was very difficult for us, especially as we had not played competitively for a long time. We will learn from our experiences and improve for next year’s challenge.”

'Lady Luck' was not on the 2015 AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil's side after he struck the crossbar in Shabab Al Ahli's penalty shootout defeat to Al Ahli Saudi; however, the striker has vowed to return stronger in 2021.

Round of 16: Al Ahli Saudi 1-1 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (Al Ahli Saudi win 4-3 on penalties)

“We had more possession, more shots and more opportunities. We were the better team throughout the match. I told the players that in this competition, you make one mistake and you are out. We did so well but we committed a mistake at the end, and we are out."

Al Sadd were the better side against Persepolis but were eliminated because of one late mistake, according to their Spanish tactician Xavi, whose team were eliminated by the Iranians for the second time in three years.

“This was the first time that I have played against Al Nassr whom I have great memories with. I really enjoyed the match and tried my best to score against them since I’m a professional player. We gave our best today although we had already achieved our target of reaching this stage; had we played against a team other than Al Nassr, we could have won."

After a decade with Al Nassr, Mohamad Al Sahlawi was up against his former employers on Sunday when Al Taawoun took on the Riyadh giants and, while the Buraidah side exited, the striker insisted that his current club could have beaten any team aside from his former charges.

“We have a good team and we worked really hard, but football is like this sometimes. When there is a lot of pressure and you have put a lot of physical effort throughout the game, you lose concentration, and that is what happened to Diabate. In normal situations he would easily score those chances, but he was tired."

Esteghlal head coach Majid Namjoo-Motlagh defended Cheikh Diabate after the Malian forward squandered several scoring opportunities in the defeat to Pakhtakor, with the tactician putting the misses down to fatigue.

Recommended Stories :