Two decades of Al Sadd v Al Hilal
Doha: On Tuesday, two of West Asia’s most decorated club sides will clash in the AFC Champions League for the tenth time, but the history of continental matchups between Al Hilal and Al Sadd extends back two decades, before the inception of the competition.
When the AFC Champions League was inaugurated in 2002-03, Al Sadd and Al Hilal became the maiden representatives of their respective countries in the competition.
Both sides had already been continental champions, with Al Sadd lifting the Asian Club Championship trophy in 1989 and Al Hilal following suit three years later before adding a second title in 1999-2000.
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Pre-AFC Champions League
Al Sadd and Al Hilal met on the continental stage for the first time in the second round of the 1999-2000 Asian Club Championship. Al Hilal won both legs, 1-0 in Doha and 2-1 in Riyadh with Kuwaiti legend Jassem Al Huwaidi scoring all three goals for the Saudi side. It would prove to be a lucky omen for Al Hilal who went on to win the title that year.
The next time Al Hilal faced Al Sadd in an AFC tournament was two years later, and they also went on to be crowned champions. In 2002, Edmilson Dias helped seal a 1-0 win for the Riyadh club in a single-legged semi-final before they defeated Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the final to win the 2002 Asian Cup Winners Cup.
2002-03 AFC Champions League
In the inaugural edition of the competition, the two sides were drawn in Group C which was played in a single round robin format with all games taking place in Al Ain.
It was Al Sadd who walked away with the three points after a 3-1 win as Ivorian winger Abdulkader Keita and former Qatar international Nasser Kamil scored either side of a second-half strike by former Al Hilal icon Sergio Ricardo against his own team. Abdullah Al Jamaan scored the consolation goal for Al Hilal, but both sides were eliminated in the group stage as hosts Al Ain won the top spot and eventually the title.
2010 AFC Champions League
It took seven years for Al Sadd and Al Hilal to lock horns again. This time, they were drawn together in Group D alongside IR Iran’s Mes Kerman and UAE’s Al Ahli. On the opening matchday, it was Al Hilal who romped to a 3-0 victory at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium. Yasser Al Qahtani bagged a brace and Thiago Neves struck late to round off the scoring.
With things tightly poised at the top of the group, Al Hilal went into the Matchday Five reverse fixture with a relative advantage, sitting top with 10 points, while Al Sadd - on six points - were level with Mes Kerman. A goalless draw in Riyadh worked to Al Hilal’s favour as they progressed top of the group, while Al Sadd crashed out.
Al Hilal went on to reach the semi-finals that year, before losing to Zobahan of IR Iran 2-0 on aggregate.
2014 AFC Champions League
Four of the nine AFC Champions League encounters between Al Sadd and Al Hilal came in the 2014 edition. Just as in 2010, the two sides found themselves in the same group with Al Ahli and an Iranian side, but this time it was Sepahan, not Mes Kerman, and just as in 2010, Neves and Al Qahtani were on the scoresheet.
The group stage double-header came back to back. In Matchday Three, a brace from Neves cancelled out goals from Talal Al Baloushi and Nadir Belhadj as the two sides shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
Just 11 days later, it was a completely different story as Al Hilal ran riot in Riyadh. Al Qahtani needed just three minutes to open the scoring, Sultan Al Deayea added a second at the half-hour mark and a Nasser Al Shamrani hat-trick concluded a miserable night for Al Sadd at King Fahd International Stadium.
Despite the 5-0 defeat, Al Sadd still managed to join Al Hilal in reaching the knock-out stages and their paths crossed again at the quarter-finals. This time around, the first leg took place in Riyadh and was a lot more closely contested as a 71st minute Salman Al Faraj strike was all that separated the sides.
Al Hilal travelled to Doha defending a slender lead a week later, and they managed to do just that, holding Al Sadd to a goalless draw to knock them out. The Saudi side went all the way to the final, but were narrowly edged by Western Sydney Wanderers 1- 0 on aggregate to see their first title hopes further put off.
2015 AFC Champions League
The last time Al Sadd and Al Hilal faced off in the AFC Champions League was four years ago. Pitted in Group C alongside IR Iran’s Foolad Khuzestan and Uzbekistan’s PFC Lokomotiv, Matchday Two saw Al Sadd finally get their first home win against Al Hilal thanks to a Khalfan Ibrahim goal.
By the time the return leg came around on the final matchday, the two sides had already guaranteed qualification with 10 points, so it was a battle for the top spot, and Al Hilal emerged on top. Youssef Al Salem scored first for Al Hilal and Hassan Al Haydos equalised from the spot. An own goal from Al Sadd defender Mohammed Kasola gifted Al Hilal the win and first place.
The two sides could have met again in the quarter-finals after Al Hilal successfully navigated Persepolis.
Al Sadd came agonisingly close against Lekhwiya, but were pipped 4-3 on aggregate to crash out. Al Hilal went on to reach the semi-finals before bowing out to UAE’s Al Ahli with the same scoreline.
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