Al-Ahli still feel confident of AFC Champions League progess despite defeat in Doha

]Al-Sadd's Morteza Pouraliganji (top) and Baghdad Bounedjah (front left) vie for the ball against Al-Ahli's Claudemir de Souza (second top) and Mortaz Hawsawi (second right) during a full-blooded AFC Champions League football clash in Doha. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Al-Ahli still feel confident of AFC Champions League progess despite defeat in Doha

  • Al-Ahli lose 2-1 in first leg of last-16 tie
  • But Jeddah outfit have that all-important away goal

Al-Ahli may have lost the first leg of their AFC Champions League round of 16 clash with Al-Sadd in Qatar 2-1 on Monday, but the Saudi Arabians were the happier of the two teams at the end and they believe that a quarter-final spot is within reach.
Al-Ahli, who topped their group unbeaten, were 2-0 down at the break after two goals from Boualem Khoukhi and there was a fear the tie could have been over after the first leg. But the Saudi Arabians rallied in the second half, created numerous chances and pulled one back thanks to a header from Mohanned Aseri. It could turn out to be a vital away goal.
The second leg will take place at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah on Monday when a big crowd is expected — and caretaker coach Fathi Al-Jabal is already looking forward to the test. “We achieved our first objective of scoring a goal away from home,” the Tunisian tactician said in the post-match press conference in Doha. “This could be of great importance in the return leg.”
Al-Ahli had 21 attempts on goal during the 90 minutes compared to 16 from Al-Sadd, which suggests they gave as good as they got in Doha and have the tools to open up the Qataris.
“It was a tough game between two good teams but were conceded the two goals in the first half,” said Al-Jabal. “We came back in the second but luck was not always on our side.”
Despite Al-Ahli’s second-half revival, Al-Sadd almost extended their advantage late in the game and it took two fine saves from Al-Ahli goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais to deny Baghdad Bounedjah and Akram Afif and leave the second leg very much in the balance.
“OK, we lost and this was a negative result but this is only half-time and there is a second game,” Al-Jabal added. “We will play next week in front of our fans and in our stadium. We have enough to overcome the deficit and progress to the next round.”
Jesualdo Ferreira, the Al-Sadd coach, has plenty of experience of knockout football with European giants Benfica and Porto and he feels his side missed a trick in not putting the tie to bed.
“It was not a satisfactory result for us,” Ferreria said. “It was important not to concede a goal but unfortunately we did. I was not happy with our defense today. We could have scored five goals with the number of chances we created. And in the end we were punished.”
The Portuguese boss is expecting a tough game in what is set to be a bouncing atmosphere in Jeddah.
“Now they need just a goal in the return leg to win on aggregate,” he said. “It’s a harsh result and I am very sad because of it. Not just the defenders, the whole team did not defend well. I want to be logical, not pessimistic, but the match in Jeddah will be a very difficult for us.”
Al-Ahli’s domestic season finished last month and they can rest up ahead of the second leg. Al-Sadd, meanwhile, have a big game just three days before the showdown in Jeddah. “We are playing back-to-back matches in different tournaments,” Ferriera said. “We have the Emir Cup semifinal against Duhail on Friday and then we travel to Saudi for the match on Monday. It will be difficult for us.”


Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

Updated 23 April 2019
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Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

  • The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H

SHANGHAI: “Fantastic” journeyman forward Adam le Fondre pounced to earn Sydney FC a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.

The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H with two rounds of matches to play after table-toppers Ulsan were held 2-2 at Kawasaki Frontale.

Chinese champions SIPG, for whom Brazilian forward Hulk was a constant menace, came back from a goal down to lead 2-1.

But the 32-year-old le Fondre displayed his enduring predatory instincts to grab a classy leveller on 62 minutes.

The striker, who is at his ninth club and has had spells at Cardiff City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, popped up with a bullet header on the six-yard box.

“He’s a fantastic person, first and foremost, and a fantastic player,” said Sydney coach Steve Corica, who knows his team will almost certainly need to win their last two matches to progress to the knock-out rounds.

Corica, formerly a player at Leicester City and Wolves, was full of praise for the evergreen le Fondre, who moved to Australia from Bolton in August 2018.

“He’s played in England, played in the Premier League, scored goals wherever he’s gone,” said Corica.

“He works extremely hard for our team and in the A-League has scored 16 goals (this season), and he’s scored in the Champions League.

“He’s been fantastic for our club and the way he’s played this year.”

Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale gave themselves a qualification lifeline as they fought back from a goal down at home with nine minutes remaining to draw 2-2 with South Korea’s Ulsan.

Leandro Damiao fired home an 81st-minute equalizer to revive Frontale’s fading hopes of progress to the last 16.

Star striker Yu Kobayashi opened the scoring for the home side, but the Koreans struck back twice before half-time through Park Yang-woo and Junior Negrao.

Kawasaki piled on the pressure toward the end with Kobayashi guilty of the miss of the match in the second minute of stoppage time when he found himself unmarked with the goal gaping, but somehow hit the post.

Ulsan top a tight Group H on eight points, with SIPG on five, Kawasaki on four and Sydney still just about alive on three points.

Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by an under-strength Melbourne Victory.

The former two-time Asian champions dropped to second in Group F after Huang Bowen’s 24th-minute strike was canceled out by Jai Ingham’s goal two minutes later. Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima took advantage of the Chinese giants’ slip-up to go top on nine points with a 1-0 win at Daegu FC in South Korea, courtesy of Hayato Araki’s 34th-minute winner. With Daegu just a point behind Guangzhou, Cannavaro’s men now face a pivotal clash in Hiroshima in two weeks before the group finale against the Koreans on May 22.