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AFC Champions League: No fairytale ending for Xavi as Al Sadd bow out

Al Sadds Xavi Hernadez looks dejected as Persepolis players celebrate after advancing to the AFC Champions League final. Image: Twitter

Bengaluru/Doha, October 24: Xavi Hernandez could possibly have played his last Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League tie as Al Sadd went down to Persepolis despite holding the Iranian side 1-1 in the second-leg away semifinal at a jam-packed Azadi Stadium.

With the Qatari side having lost the home leg 0-1 at Doha's Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Persepolis secured a 2-1 aggregate win for a place in the continental showpiece for the first time, where they will face either Suwon Samsung Bluewings or Kashima Antlers in early November.

Kashima won the first leg 3-2, with the second match to be played on Wednesday (October 24) at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.

Baghdad Bounedjah strike in the 17th minute had given Al Sadd the lead and raised hopes of an upset victory.

However, Siamak Nemati equalised for Persepolis in the 49th minute off a pass from Godwin Mensha as the Qatar side were unable to find the net a second time which would have sent them through on away goals.

The defeat also ended Xavi's hopes of a rare Champions League double. If Al Sadd had reached the final and then eventually gone on to win the tournament, Xavi would have become the first player to complete the unique 'AFC Champions League - UEFA Champions League double', the Spaniard having won the European competition on four occasions during his trophy-laden career at Camp Nou.

With the Barcelona legend already having hinted that his playing days are numbered, the Persepolis tie could have been his last at the continental level.

And there was a near fairytale end when he almost scored the winner in the 86th minute, only to to be denied by a stunning reflex save by Persepolis custodian Alireza Beiranvand.

Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira while praising his players was candid while admitting that the result in the first leg made things difficult for the Qatari outfit.

"We played well in both legs but did not make good use of chances. In the first leg, we conceded a weird penalty which lead to our defeat and the exit from this tournament. This is football," he said.

"The first leg result made things difficult for us. We played to win and gave 90 minutes of offensive football, trying to win the game in any manner but we were unable to. Persepolis had a fantastic game and most of their players did well, especially the goalkeeper. Congratulations to them on the win and the qualification for the final," the Portuguese manager added.

(With inputs from AFC and Al Sadd media)

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    Story first published: Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 11:19 [IST]
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