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.


Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

Updated 20 May 2019
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Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

  • Milwaukee’s MVP finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggles to just 12 points
  • He then fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period

LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard scored eight of his 36 points in the second overtime period Sunday to lead the Toronto Raptors to a gritty 118-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The Raptors, who dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Milwaukee, clawed their way back to 2-1 in front of home fans and will try to level the set when they host game four on Tuesday.
Pascal Siakam scored 25 points and Spanish center Marc Gasol added 16 for the Raptors, who got off to a quick start and led much of the night but had to battle to put the Bucks away.
“We just played a lot tougher,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We were up guarding, we were physical. We were ready to play tonight.”
Milwaukee’s Most Valuable Player finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled to just 12 points on five-of-16 shooting.
Antetokounmpo’s 23 rebounds helped the Bucks stay in touch, but he didn’t reach double figures in points until the middle of the fourth quarter and he produced eight of the Bucks’ 20 turnovers.
Antetokounmpo fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period.
Moments later the Bucks managed to edge ahead 105-103 — taking the lead for the first time since Antetokounmpo scored the game’s opening basket — but Leonard and the Raptors roared back.
Leonard’s steal and dunk put Toronto ahead 112-109 and his driving bank shot gave Toronto a 114-110 lead with 32.4 seconds remaining.
Leonard played a key role in limiting Antetokounmpo and Nurse said his defensive play was “probably the biggest key of the game.”
“Not only did he just play good, but he made some huge plays with some steals and rip-aways and break aways,” Nurse said.
“Offense was hard to come by there for both teams for a while and any time you can get a steal and a break out it’s a huge momentum play.”
Toronto had a chance to win it in regulation, but they let a 96-91 lead slip away in the final 1:13 of the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee guard Khris Middleton’s putback basket from his own miss with 2.2 seconds left in regulation forced overtime.
The Raptors led 103-99 with 1:29 remaining in the first extra session.
But Malcolm Brogdon floated in a shot and George Hill drained two free throws to tie it before Leonard’s jump shot fell short.
The Raptors overcame a slow night from Kyle Lowry, who scored 11 points before fouling out with 6:12 left in the fourth.
Although Leonard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, some grimaces from the Raptors star sparked concerns he might be injured.
“I’m feeling all right,” he said. “This is playoff basketball. Everybody’s hurting, you just have to keep fighting.”
Hill led the Bucks with 24 points and fellow reserve Brogdon added 20. Center Brook Lopez led the Bucks starters with 16 points.
“I feel like we gave ourselves several chances,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We weren’t able to get over the hump.
“When you have opportunities you’ve got to make them and we didn’t quite make enough of our good ones. I think we’ll be better in game four, Giannis, everybody.”