Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira heaved a sigh of relief on Monday night after a 2-2 draw at home with Esteghlal in the second leg of the 2018 AFC Champions League quarter-finals sent his team to the last four of the competition.
The 2011 winners advanced to the next stage on the back of a 5-3 aggregate win, having defeated the Iranian team 3-1 in the first leg in Tehran.
Akram Afif extended that advantage for Al Sadd by opening the scoring at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium. However, Esteghlal threatened to derail the hosts’ party after Rouhollah Bagheri and Morteza Tabrizi struck either side of half-time to put them within a goal of tying the aggregate score.
Esteghlal defender Rouzbeh Cheshmi was dismissed for a second bookable offence almost immediately after Tabrizi’s goal to halt their momentum, but it took a last-minute penalty from Baghdad Bounedjah to calm the Qataris’ nerves and confirm their qualification to the semi-finals.
“The game in Tehran was easier than this one,” said Ferreira. “Esteghlal came at us at full strength and they played with the aim of making up for the two-goal deficit from the first leg. “They almost scored a third goal in the latter stages of the game. We feared that the game would go on to extra-time and penalties but we were able to maintain the scoreline and then scored a late goal to go through to the semi-final.
“It is true that we got a lot of chances to score but we weren’t able to benefit from them. When you play against a team with 10 men, it doesn’t always mean that they are weak.
“Esteghlal showed that they are a strong team but we showed our strength as well by reaching the semi-finals.”
With the quarter-final behind them, Al Sadd will now look ahead to facing another Iranian side in the semi-final after Persepolis booked their spot following a sensational comeback win over Al Duhail.
“There’s no doubt the game against Persepolis will be tough,” admitted Ferreira.
“We played them earlier (in the group stage), but this time it will be completely different. We saw how they overturned the result against Al Duhail. We need to be at our best when we play them, and that match is going to be like a final.
“Now, we need to focus on our game against Al Rayyan in the league and then we will be able to properly think about the semi-final. I’m sure that we have enough experience to deal with the tough matches that are coming up, both at home and in Asia.”
Meanwhile, Persepolis midfielder Bashar Resan credited winning mentality for his side’s 3-1 win over Al Duhail in the second leg of the quarter-finals on Monday.
The Iranian side came from 2-0 down on aggregate to record a 3-2 victory, with goals from Jalal Hosseini, and Godwin Mensha either side of a Sultan Al Brake own goal helping them turn the tie around at Azadi Stadium.
“In the first half, we made a mistake in defending a set-piece and conceded, so that put a lot of pressure on us”, said the Iraqi international.
“But we are winners; Persepolis is a team with a winner mentality, and we channelled that out in the second half. We were all determined to get back into it, worked really hard and took the chances that came our way.”
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019