Mohanned Aseri goal gives Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli hope against Xavi's Al-Sadd

Al-Sadd's Xavi beat Al-Ahli 2-1 in the AFC Champions League. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Mohanned Aseri goal gives Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli hope against Xavi's Al-Sadd

  • Two first-half goals from Boualem Khoukhi had put Al-Sadd in control of the tie in Doha against Al-Ahli
  • Former Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez plays for Qatar's Al-Sadd

LONDON: Al-Ahli’s hopes of reaching the quarter-final of the 2018 AFC Champions League are still intact after Mohanned Aseri’s second-half header gave the Saudi Arabians a 2-1 loss at Al-Sadd in the first leg of their second round clash in Qatar.
Ater two first-half goals from Boualem Khoukhi had put Al-Sadd in control of the tie in Doha, Aseri hit back early in the second-half to give the Jeddah club an away goal and hope for the second leg.
While it was no more than the visitors, aggressive and probing going forward, deserved, they had a nightmare start and were behind after just three minutes.
Former Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez had gone down under a challenge from Motaz Hawsawi inside a crowded area and had barely finished appealing when he received a pass at the age of the box from the advancing Khoukhi. The Spaniard threaded the ball through the defense for the Algeria-born forward to slot past Mohammed Al-Awais from close range.
Just four minutes later, Xavi was forcing the goalkeeper into another save and when Hasan Al-Haydos ad Al-Awais diving low to his left after ten minutes, the Saudi visitors were well and truly under the cosh.
After the initial shock however, Al-Ahli started to play their way back into the game. and a fine passing move midway through the half ended with Abdulafttah Asiri dragging his left-footed shot just wide on the right side.
Moments later, Mansour Al-Harbi, starting on the left side, danced through the home defense and then picking up the loose ball inside the area, shot past Saad Al Sheeb only for Ahmed Suhail to clear off the line.
The intervention may well be a turning point in the tie as just before the half-hour Al-Sadd broke to extend their lead. A perfect cross was delivered from the right by Baghdad Bounedjah and Khoukhi climed above Amiri Kurdi inside the area to send a towering header into the back of the net.
Al-Ahli’s efforts were finally rewarded early in the second half as Aseri, Mohannad Aseri, who had gone close with an earlier header, rose at the far post to head Kurdi’s cross past the despairing goalkeeper.
The Saudis continued to look more incisive. Substitute Saleh Al-Amri, busy on the left side of attack, saw three attempts well-saved by Al-Sheeb in the Al-Sadd goal.
With five minutes remaining however, Al Sadd almost snatched a third. A long ball over the top released Bounedjah and the tournament’s leading goalscorer shot fiercely toward the bottom corner. Al Awais produced a top-class save, somehow getting a hand to the ball. He was in action again in injury time to deny Akram Afif.
To concede a third would have been cruel for Al Ahli who deserved more from the game. The result may mark a first defeat for the Saudi team in this year’s tournament but a similar performance in the second leg and fans in Jeddah will be confident of turning the tie around.


Leonard scores 35, Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 for 3-2 lead

Updated 24 May 2019
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Leonard scores 35, Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 for 3-2 lead

  • Leonard hit the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series

MILWAUKEE: Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Leonard showed no obvious signs of the leg soreness that bothered him in Toronto’s victories in the previous two games, hitting the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series. He made five 3-pointers and had seven rebounds and nine assists.
Fred VanVleet scored 21 points, hitting seven 3s. Kyle Lowry added 17 as the Raptors put themselves in position to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time. A victory at home Saturday would set up a matchup with two-time defending champion Golden State.
“This was a super-hard win tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
The Raptors battled out of an early 14-point hole, then got 15 points from Leonard in the fourth quarter to send the top-seeded Bucks to their first three-game losing streak of the season.
“We weathered the storm early,” Leonard said.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points for Milwaukee hours after being announced as a unanimous first-team, All-NBA selection. Eric Bledsoe scored 20 and Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points and 11 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup.
“It’s first to four. We’ve got to go to Toronto, get a game. I think the group will be ready,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
The Raptors were clinging to a two-point lead in the closing minute after Khris Middleton drove around Leonard on the baseline for a layup.
Toronto was initially called for a shot-clock violation when Leonard missed a fadeaway jumper with 35 seconds left. That got overturned by a replay review, and Brook Lopez was called for a foul, instead, for bumping Marc Gasol after he retrieved the loose ball.
Gasol hit both free throws to make it 100-97. Another replay review went in Toronto’s favor when officials determined a ball went out of bounds off Brogdon with 26.8 seconds left. Brogdon pulled his hand away, thinking his dribble had gone off Pascal Siakam’s foot.
Siakam then drove for a dunk, making it 102-97, and the Raptors hung on from there.
Milwaukee was leading 81-79 with about 8 1/2 minutes left when Leonard nailed back-to-back 3-pointers. He hit two free throws before Siakam threw down a put-back dunk to make it 89-81.
The Bucks tied it at 93-all with 2:44 left on a 3-pointer by Lopez. VanVleet answered with one of his own before Antetokounmpo threw down an alley-oop dunk to cut it to 96-95 with just over two minutes remaining.
The Bucks set a fast pace early on and led by 10 after the first quarter, delighting the towel-waving fans chanting “Fear The Deer! Fear the Deer!” They withstood a 16-2 run by Toronto to start the second, with Antetokounmpo nailing a 3 to stop it.
The Bucks also went on a 14-2 run early in the third, with the Greek Freak throwing down a hard dunk off a feed by Middleton for a 63-51 lead. But the Raptors got right back into it.

Tip-ins

Raptors: Lowry now has 1,126 points in 66 playoff games for Toronto, surpassing DeMar DeRozan (1,117) as the franchise’s postseason scoring leader.
Bucks: Brogdon started all 64 games he played in during the regular season, before missing basically all of the first two rounds because of a heel injury. With Brogdon back in the lineup, Nikola Mirotic came off the bench.

Up next

Game 6 is at Toronto on Saturday.