Al Sadd were the dark horses going into their FIFA Club World Cup Qatar quarter-final match against Monterrey, and the Qatar giants put on a valiant fight before going down 2-3 in a pulsating encounter yesterday.
The Mexican side were too good for Sadd in the first half, but the hosts never gave up as they twice reduced a two-goal deficit in the second half before running out of time at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium. Monterrey will now gear up for a marquee semi-final showdown with European champions Liverpool on Wednesday at the Khalifa International stadium, while Sadd will play a fifth place play-off tie against African champions Esperance Sportive de Tunis on Tuesday.
Sadd started on a positive note but goals from Leonel Vangioni (23rd minute) and Rogelio Funes Mori (45 +1) gave Monterrey the advantage at half time. While Sadd ignited comeback hopes with a Baghdad Bounedjah header in the 66th minute, Carlos Rodriguez’s strike ten minutes later restored Monterrey’s two-goal advantage. Sadd were back in the contest after a stunner from Abdelkarim Hassan in the 89th minute, but could not force the game into extra time in the six added minutes.
“I am very disappointed but proud of the players for what their effort. We made many mistakes that helped the Mexican team. But we deserved more than that and could have taken the game to extra time,” Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez said. “We must learn from our mistakes. But I am happy with most of the players and how they played. But in football the result is most important and we committed too many mistakes to lose today,” he added.
On the match eve, Xavi had urged his players to play without fear and embrace being the dark horse for the clash. While the hosts did put on a much better show in the second half, they weren’t clinical enough in the first even as Monterrey took their chances.
Unlike against Hienghene Sport last Wednesday, where they scraped to a 3-1 extra-time win, Sadd were punished by the South American champions for wasting too many chances.
Monterrey did go close after just 98 seconds, when Jesus Gallardo hit the bar, but in the next ten minutes Sadd had a chance to take the lead through Akram Afif and Nam Tae-hee.
In third minute, Asian best player of the year Afif’s shot was blocked by Marcelo Barovero, and the Monterrey goalkeeper did not do much when South Koream international Nam whipped over the post.
On the other hand, Vangioni struck a belter to give the CONCACAF Champions League winners an early lead in the 23rd minute. The defender picked up a ball from 35-yards and unleashed a left-footer, which hit the top of the right-hand post and then slammed into the net.
Afif and Hassan did try their luck from outside the box but could not find the target before Sadd captain Gabi’s blunder at the stroke of half time put the hosts two goals behind. The Spanish midfielder played a back pass to Boualem Khoukhi, but could only find a lurking Mori, who squared up Sadd keeper Saad al-Sheeb and calmly put it into the net.
Afif had enough time in the remaining seconds of first half to pull a goal back but the forward’s corner from the left was cleared by Barovero.
Sadd came in with a lot more intent in the second half but Barovero was again on hand to parry a shot from Hassan al-Haydos. While Xavi’s men did enjoy more of the possession, Monterrey were always a threat. Captain Dorlan Pabon went close a couple of times, but Sadd defenders were able to thwart the danger.
Afif did have another big opportunity in the 65th minute, but the 23-year-old once again shot wide. A minute later, however, Bounedjah gave his side a hope when he bundled in a Khoukhi cross.
Monterrey were back in control though, when Pedro Miguel lost the ball in the midfield to Jesus Gallardo, who then passed it to Rodriguez to drill into the net. When all the hopes seemed to die down, Hassan’s thunder strike from 25 yards in the 88th minute gave Sadd a slim of a chance. But the Monterrey players were clever in running down the clock as Sadd players ran out of gas.
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