Al Sadd progressed to round two of the Club World Cup, but Hienghene Sport’s gutsy display was worthy of the highest praise.
Minnows Hienghene Sport produced an outstanding performance to force extra-time before going down 3-1 to Al Sadd in round one of the Club World Cup.
Al Sadd – coached by former Barcelona midfielder Xavi – had been expected to record a comfortable win at their home stadium against amateur opponents hailing from New Caledonia.
However, Hienghene threatened to pull off an incredible shock, and the winners of the OFC Champions League were only undone when goalkeeper Rocky Nyikeine picked up a backpass in the first period of extra-time and Abdelkarim Hassan thundered home from the resulting indirect free-kick, with Pedro Miguel subsequently adding a late third.
Al Sadd, who will now face Monterrey on Saturday, were more than worthy winners, having spurned a succession of clear-cut chances to seal victory in normal time, but Hienghene could be immensely proud of a display highlighted by Antoine Roine’s 46th-minute strike, which was awarded after a lengthy VAR review.
Roine caught the eye in the first half, with a bicycle kick that drew a sharp save from Saad Al Sheeb, as Hienghene repeatedly threatened on the counter-attack.
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Baghdad Bounedjah’s cute volleyed finish from Hassan’s left-wing cross put Al Sadd ahead after 26 minutes, and the Qatari side saw two further goals from Akram Afif and Hassan Al Haydos ruled out for offside following VAR reviews either side of Roine’s stunning leveller.
The New Caledonian winger muscled Boualem Khoukhi off the ball and fired a superb finish into the bottom-right corner. Referee Mustapha Ghorbal initially awarded a foul against Roine, but the decision was reversed and Hienghene celebrated jubilantly.
Xavi’s men piled on the pressure thereafter and the underdogs were grateful for a stunning fingertip save from Nyikeine and two goal-line blocks from Joseph Athale, the second a heroic effort that prompted a dramatic goalmouth scramble, as they clung on.
Afif and Jung Woo-young were guilty of abysmal misses as Al Sadd’s pressure intensified, but they eventually found a way through when Nyikeine incorrectly picked up a backpass and Hassan took full advantage.
Hienghene were understandably tiring badly by this point and Bounedjah hit the bar before Miguel made it 3-1 with a powerful close-range finish.