Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez bid adieu to his illustrious playing career with a defeat as Al Sadd SC suffered a 2-0 loss to Persepolis FC in their final group game of AFC Champions League 2019.
Al Sadd had already booked a spot in the Round of 16 of the ACL, but their hopes of presenting a parting gift for one of world football’s modern greats came creating down at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran as 2018 runners-up Persepolis decided to bow out on a high.
In the final outing of his illustrious career, 39-year-old Xavi continued to be the prime creative force for Al Sadd. Five minutes in, the Spaniard collected the ball at the centre circle and supplied a through pass for Baghdad Bounedjah who looked to lob over Alireza Beiranvand, but the Persepolis goalkeeper stretched and made the save with his fingertips.
Persepolis’ first attempt of the match produced the opening goal in the 16th minute. Torabi collected Ahmad Noorollahi’s pass 30 yards from goal and unleashed a thunderous drive into the top corner of Saad Al Sheeb’s net to put the hosts in front.
Torabi then turned provider for Persepolis in the 67th minute, breaking free down the left flank and finding Alipour with a perfectly weighted pass. Alipour rode off the initial tackle of Tarek Salman before drilling a low effort through the legs of Al Sheeb to make it 2-0.
The result means Al Sadd have to wait for the outcome of the second clash between Al Ahli and Pakhtakor to learn whether they will finish first or second in the group. Persepolis had only pride to play for in the final match of their ACL 2019 campaign as they finished third in the group after collecting only seven points from six group games while Xavi’s Al Sadd and Uzbekistan side Pakhtakor Tashkent progressed to the knockout stages.
The Round of 16 matches in the West Zone are slated to be held in the month of August, however, Xavi will not be taking field for the Qatar Stars League club then in the summer.
The Spanish midfielder is Barcelona’s all-time record appearance-holder in La Liga with 505 caps and also in all competitions with 769 appearances. He won eight La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies during his 17-year-stay in Catalonia. The 39-year-old moved to Qatar in 2015 and has spent four seasons in Asia winning the Qatari domestic league, Emir of Qatar Cup and Qatar Cup.
Xavi also won 133 international caps for Spain winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2008 and 2012 UEFA Euros.
Meanwhile, a late strike from substitute Khalid Muneer earned Al Duhail SC a 2-2 draw against Al Hilal SFC at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha yesterday.
With a Round of 16 place already in the bag, Al Duhail opted to rest the likes of Medhi Benatia and Almoez Ali. They were also without the services of injured defender Bassam Al Rawi.
After a cagey start to the match, Al Duhail hit on the counter to score from the first real opportunity. Ahmed Yasser sent a cross-field pass for Abdullah Al Ahrak who broke the offside trap and pulled the ball back for Youssef El Arabi to hit first-time into the top corner in the 15th minute.
Gomis pressed on Al Duhail goalkeeper Khalifa Ababacar, forcing him to concede a throw in which was quickly played, finding Mohammed Kanno who fired from inside the box.
Ababacar spilled his save into the path of Gomis who pounced on the loose ball to fire home the equaliser at the half-hour mark.
After the break, Al Hilal continued on the offensive and Sebastian Giovinco started an attacking move the centre circle, moving the ball out to Al Burayk then Eduardo whose backheel pass found Hattan Bahebri.
The Saudi international midfielder set up Gomis to drive an effort from the edge of the box into the bottom corner for his and Al Hilal’s second of the night.
One minute into the three minutes of added time, Edmilson took possession of the ball inside Al Hilal box following a poor clearance. The Brazilian used his trickery to get past his marker and sent a cross that was deflected off a defender.
Muneer controlled the ball with his head and volleyed into the far corner, leaving Al Mayouf helpless to save and earning his side a hard-fought point right at the death.Courtesy:The Peninsula