Al Hilal reach AFC Champions League 2019 final despite 2-4 defeat to Al Sadd in second leg

Al Hilal Al sadd

Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal SFC booked a place in the final of the AFC Champions League 2019 after a 6-5 aggregate win over their semifinal opponents — Qatar Stars League side Al Sadd SC — on Tuesday.

Al Hilal were 4-1 winners in the first leg away at Doha and in the driver’s seat for the return leg at the King Saudi University Stadium in Riyadh. But, Xavi Hernandez’s Al Sadd side put on a spirited display to make the second leg a nail-biting affair.

Al Sadd had given themselves a lifeline by scoring three in three minutes after Salem Al-Dawsari’s opener for Al Hilal. However, Bafetimbi Gomis’ strike in the 25th minute once again gave the hosts a two-goal advantage.

Al Sadd probed for the two goals that would take them into the final, but had to wait until the second-half injury time for a goal from Boualem Khoukhi. The visitors, needing a goal to progress, were given a freekick at the edge of the box in what was to be the final kick off the game, but failed to score.

Al Sadd had a mountain to climb after going down 4-1 at home in the semifinal first leg on October 1 and head coach Xavi was not helped by the absences of the suspended duo — fullback Abdelkarim Hassan and striker Baghdad Bounedjah.

And there was a feeling in Riyadh that the game was already in the bag when Al-Dawsari opened the scoring for Al Hilal in the 13th minute after Khoukhi had failed to get enough distance on the clearance of a Yasser Al-Shahrani cross.

AFC Champions League 2019: Al Hilal FC 1-0 Al Sadd (Salem Al-Dawsari 13′)

However, the visitors received a much needed fillip when Singaporean referee Muhammad Taqi pointed to the penalty spot after Akram Afif had gone down inside the box under contact from Mohammed Al-Breik. The young Qatar winger himself converted from the spot to make it 1-1 in the 17th minute.

Saudi Professional League table toppers Al Hilal would have still felt pretty comfortable with the 5-2 aggregate scoreline, but that was to change in the space of two minutes as the visiting QSL outfit went 3-1 up by the 20th minute!

AFC Champions League 2019: Al Hilal FC 1-3 Al Sadd (Hassan Al-Haydos 20′)

A quick turn of possession saw 19-year-old stand-in Hashim Ali setting up Nam Tae-hee for Al Sadd’s second in the 19th minute before captain Hassan Al Haydos made it 5-4 on aggregate the very next minute after Nam was once again played through on goal.

However, the Saudis restored the two-goal lead five minutes later when Sebastian Giovinco’s delightful cross was turned in by Gomis for his 10th goal of ACL 2019 and to somewhat settle the Al Hilal nerves.

AFC Champions League 2019: Al Hilal FC 2-3 Al Sadd (Bafetimbi Gomis 25′)

The second half wasn’t as open as the first 45 minutes and Al Sadd found it hard to break open the Al Hilal defence as they went in search of the two goals that would have sent them through to the final.

Nam fired a long-rang effort wide for Al Sadd from a rare opening, but it was Al Hilal who perhaps had the best opportunity of the second period when Giovinco’s backheel pass put Al-Dawsari through on goal only for Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb to deny the Saudi attacker in the 80th minute.

Akram fired over from inside the box in the 81st minute and Pedro was denied by Al Hilal custodian Abdullah Al-Mayouf in the 88th minute and by Al-Shahrani in the injury time before Khoukhi headed in a corner kick in the third minute of the added time to put Al Sadd one goal away from a place in the final, but with only seconds left to play.

The visitors were handed a glorious opportunity when they won a freekick at the edge of the box with barely any time left to play, but Al-Mayouf came to Al Hilal’s rescue by collecting the setpiece as Al Sadd crashed out of the AFC Champions League in the semifinals for the second season running.

Al Hilal will meanwhile face Urawa Red Diamonds or Guangzhou Evergrande in the final of ACL 2019 next month. Urawa take a 2-0 lead to the second leg which will be played at the Tainhe Stadium in Guangzhou on Wednesday.