Disappointed Xavi refuses to give up
Doha: Al Sadd coach Xavi is refusing to give up hope of qualifying to the 2019 AFC Champions League final despite his side’s heavy 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Al Hilal in the first leg of the semi-final on Tuesday.
The Qatari champions surrendered an early lead to concede twice in each half, suffering their first home defeat of the campaign and leaving them in need of a four-goal winning margin if they are to better last year’s semi-final exit.
The night started brightly for the hosts as they dominated the early proceedings and struck first 14 minutes into the game, but a defensive mistake allowed Al Hilal a way back into the match and Al Sadd capitulated after being reduced to 10 men, allowing their visitors to reign.
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“I’m extremely disappointed with the result,” said Xavi who is staring at a second consecutive AFC Champions League semi-final exit, having been part of the Al Sadd squad that was eliminated by Persepolis at the same stage in 2018.
“We were the better team until Abdelkarim Hassan was sent off. In my opinion, there were two matches; one before the red card and one after it. It was really difficult for us to defend and attack with 10 players, so we fell to this result."
With 10 minutes left to the half-time break, 2018 AFC Player of the Year Hassan received a yellow card for a mistimed challenge on Mohammed Al Burayk. The left-back then reacted angrily to the decision, earning his marching orders.
Tensions were flying high and Al Sadd striker Baghdad Bounedjah was added to the referee’s book in added time of the first half for excessive protestation, meaning he joins Hassan in missing the return leg.
“Unfortunately, we will be without two important players for the second leg after the cards to Bounedjah and Hassan, but we will still do our best and will not lose hope.
“It is a really bad result, but we won’t give up. It is not over; there are still 90 minutes left and we will fight hard to win the second leg. Who knows? Maybe they will undergo circumstances like those that happened to us today and we can then win.”
Al Sadd travel to Riyadh for the second leg at King Saud University Stadium on October 22, with the winners facing either Guangzhou Evergrande or Urawa Red Diamonds in the 2019 AFC Champions League final.
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