Baghdad Bounedjah was delighted to receive the Alibaba Cloud Match Award for his performance in Al Sadd’s 3-1 win over Hienghene Sport in the opening match of FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Wednesday.
The Algerian striker played a major role in the success, regularly causing havoc in the New Caledonian’s back line and firing in his side’s first goal when he tucked home a cross from Abdelkarim Hassan.
In an exclusive post-match interview with FIFA.com, Bounedjah revealed the victory was hard-fought, despite some pre-match predictions to the contrary.
“We could’ve scored three in the first half and then it would’ve been a different story, but luck wasn’t on our side,” he said. “We also missed some very easy chances due to lack of focus in front of goal,” he said.
Al Sadd let Hienghene Sport back into the game at 1-1, but did not let their heads drop. “We didn’t doubt our ability to win today as we controlled the game from beginning to end,” said Bounedjah. “They got their goal from their only chance. We fought back and scored the second after missing more than five chances. We were able to kill the game in extra time.”
Al Sadd now turn their attention to their upcoming encounter against Monterrey, a side that on paper at least arrive with a greater pedigree than the debutants from New Caledonia. “We focused on our first match against Hienghene,” said Bounedjah. “Now it’s over and we are through to the second round we will think about the Monterrey game. We will need to be more switched-on if we want to beat them and progress to the semi-final.”
Return to form
Having gotten close to two goals per game on the way to winning the title in April, Bounedjah gave his take on why he has been less prolific than usual in front of goal so far this season.
“After the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, I went back to training right away and didn’t rest well,” he said.
“That’s why I haven’t scored as many goals as last year, but I am working hard to regain my best form.”
Bounedjah’s strike against Hienghene Sport could be the first of more to come in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019. Having found the net twice recently on international duty for Algeria, Bounedjah is hoping for a strong end to a year that has been full of highs.
“I won the Africa Cup of Nations,” he said. “I reached the AFC Champions League’s semi-final too, but we couldn’t make to the final. I am now taking part in the FIFA Club World Cup so I can say that 2019 has been an exceptional year for me.”
When asked about Al Sadd’s aims in a tournament that is being played at home in Qatar, Bounedjah concluded: “We will do all we can to win the title and if we do that will be great. If not, we know that’s football.” (Fifa.com)
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