Fighting performance from Al-Ahli not enough as Saudi club exit AFC Champions League

Al-Ahli exited the 2018 AFC Champions League on Monday after a 2-2 draw with Al-Sadd. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2018
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Fighting performance from Al-Ahli not enough as Saudi club exit AFC Champions League

JEDDAH: Al-Ahli exited the 2018 AFC Champions League on Monday after a 2-2 draw with Al-Sadd in their second leg in Jeddah gave the Qatari team a 4-3 aggregate win in this round of 16 clash.
It was a fighting performance from the Saudi Arabian team, down 2-1 from the first leg in Doha a week earlier, who recovered from conceding an early goal to push Al-Sadd all the way in an open and exciting game.
Two goals from tournament top scorer Baghdad Bounedjah made the difference. The first came after just three minutes as, just as in the first leg, Al-Ahli fell conceded early.
Bounedjah was freed on the left and given too much space to cut inside to enter the penalty area and fire a right-footed shot past the despairing dive of Mohammed Al-Owais.
Within five minutes however, the hosts drew level on the night with a simple free-kick. The Al Sadd defence failed to deal with Saleh Al-Amri’s floated ball into the area from the right side and there was Claudemir at the far post to head home from close range.
At the 20-minute mark, Al Ahli almost scored from a similar position. Al-Amri sent another cross from the right to the far post but this time, Salman Muwashar headed high and wide from a closer range and a tighter angle. Soon after, Claudemir was shooting over from the edge of the area as Al-Ahli started to pile on the pressure.
Yet just past the half-hour it was Al-Sadd who should have scored. A delightful pass from former Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez found Akram Afif free inside the area but Al-Owais came out quickly to block the shot with his legs. Moments later, Morteza Pouraliganji shot just wide from a free-kick.
Six minutes before the break, Al Ahli were back on level terms for the first time in the tie since the opening minutes of the first leg. This time, the delivery came in from the left and Mansour Al-Harbi’s inswinging cross was met by Aseri, who got the better of Abdelkarim Hassan and bundled home from close range to tie the overall score at 3-3.
Both teams continued to attack after the restart with the first chance falling to Xavi whose low shot was well-saved by Al-Owais. The goalkeeper was helpless just before the hour as Bounedjah’s overhead kick from close range rattled the crossbar as Al Sadd threatened to take control.
Shortly after however, Aseri missed an open goal that would have put Al-Ahli ahead. Abdulafttah Asiri sent over a perfect low cross from the left that eluded everyone except the Saudi striker who somehow shot over from inside the six-yard box.
The turning point came with 20 minutes remaining. Claudemir brought down Hamid Ismaeil in the area and while Al-Owais saved Bounedjah’s initial shot, the Algerian followed up to send Al Sadd into the last eight and end Saudi Arabian participation in the 2018 AFC Champions League.


Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

Updated 19 July 2019
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Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

  • The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands

CAIRO: Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura says Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal represents the “match of a lifetime” as his country bids to capture the title for a second time.

The Desert Foxes lifted their lone trophy on home soil in 1990 but coach Djamel Belmadi has reinvigorated a team that crashed out in the group stage two years ago and then flopped in World Cup qualifying.

“I think it’s the match of a lifetime for a lot of players in the team and for Algeria,” said Guedioura, who at 33 is the oldest member of the squad.

The Nottingham Forest journeyman has started five of six games in Egypt and insisted much of the credit for Algeria’s eye-catching performances must go to former national team midfielder Belmadi.

“He really knows the players and what he wants. The good thing is he knows how to get through to the players and how to listen,” said the 48-time international.

“If you don’t have a good cook you can’t have a good recipe. With that we realize we can be all together and it’s important to be a team.

“It’s important for Algeria because we used to have good individuals and now we feel very strong as a team and we want to achieve as a team.”

A Youcef Belaili goal earned Algeria a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the group stage, but Belmadi was quick to point out the statistics were heavily weighted in their opponents’ favor.

“Of course we can lose this match. We have an opponent that is number one in the FIFA rankings for Africa. They were at the World Cup. We were eliminated in the first round in 2017,” said Belmadi.

“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference.”

He added: “The most important is to stay concentrated and determined yet calm at the same time.”

Algeria will have the backing of an additional 4,800 fans for the final.

Some of them will arrive in Cairo on military planes organized by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands.

In April, long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after weekly Friday protests against his expected candidacy for elections, and football fans have been heavily involved in demonstrations.

“We know what’s happening. The people we represent have been wonderful,” said Guedioura

“It’s magnificent what is happening. We’re focused on football but we want to win the final for the people,” he added.