Xavi's Al Sadd ease past Sepahan, Duhail shocked in Asian Champions League

AFP
Xavi led Al Sadd to the Qatar Cup in Janaury (AFP Photo/KARIM JAAFAR)
Xavi led Al Sadd to the Qatar Cup in Janaury (AFP Photo/KARIM JAAFAR)

Doha (AFP) - Qatari sides had mixed luck in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday as Xavi's Al Sadd eased past Iran's Sepahan 3-0 in Doha while Al Duhail crashed to a 2-0 defeat against Saudi Arabia's Al Taawoun in Buraidah.

Akram Afif opened the scoring while veteran Hassan al-Haydos scored a brace at the Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Stadium as the side coached by the former Barcelona captain grabbed their first win after having drawn against Saudi side Al Nassr last week.

Al Duhail however failed to build on their opening win against Persepolis as hosts Al Taawoun, based in Saudi Arabia's northcentral province of Al Qassim, scored through Mohamed al-Sahlawi and Abdulmajeed al-Swat in a convincing display at the King Abdulla Sport City Stadium.

Al Sadd, boasting several players in the ranks who were part of the Qatar team which won the Asian Cup last year, were never in any trouble against Sepahan whose defence showed the tendency to buckle under sustained pressure.

Yet the visitors managed to prevent the Qataris from scoring in the first half mainly due to the efforts of goalkeeper Payam Niazmand who displayed excellent instincts to come up with some good saves.

As early as the fifth minute, Afif was presented with a golden opportunity from close but Niazmand rushed forward and blocked the forward's attempted overhead chip.

Niazmand also foiled attempts from Baghdad Bounedjah and Nam Tae-hee but Sepahan's luck began to run out as Al Sadd came out all guns blazing in the second half.

In the 51st minute, Bounedjah produced a defence-splitting pass from the right and Afif, on the left flank, made no mistake with a left-footed chip over Niazmand to put the hosts ahead.

Sepahan had a rare chance to score but a powerful drive from just outside the box by Mehdi Kiani saw Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb bring off a fine save.

Al-Haydos consolidated for Al Sadd in the 73rd minute with a deft touch from close, the pass once again coming from Bounedjah.

Five minutes later, the Qatar captain took full advantage of an Afif pass to put the match to bed as Al Sadd went top of the table on goal difference with Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr, who recorded a 2-1 win over the UAE's Al Ain in Group D.

- Al Taawoun on a roll -

In Group C, Al Taawoun, playing the tournament only for the second time – the first was in 2017 – grabbed their second consecutive win at Al Duhail's expense to go top of the table.

An opening win over Sharjah last week had done wonders to their confidence and that showed as Al Taawoun ensured Al Duhail's winless run against Saudi teams in the tournament continued.

Veteran al-Sahlawi put the hosts up from close in the 34th minute as Al Duhail goalkeeper Amine Lecomte failed to the collect the ball cleanly after al-Swat had produced a powerful long-range shot.

The roles were reversed in the 54th minute as this time it was al-Swat who scored from close with a calm finish off an al-Sahlawi pass.

Also in Group C, Iran's Persepolis twice squandered a one-goal lead as they drew 2-2 with the UAE's Sharjah with all the goals coming in the first half.

Ali Alipour struck in the ninth and 27th minutes but Mohamed Khalfan and Ryan Mendes ensured that hosts Sharjah got away with a point.

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