DOHA: Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal yesterday reached the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League following a goalless draw against hosts Al Sadd of Qatar.
Al Hilal’s 1-0 win in the first leg in Riyadh last week helped the Saudi side scrape through after both sides failed to find the net at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium where the rough pitch did not allow the teams to play freely.
Al Hilal will now face Emirati side Al Ain, who defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad 3-1 in their quarter-final second leg at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium on the outskirts of Mecca.
Going into the match, Al Ain already had a two-goal advantage, which they extended — thanks to goals by Asamoah Gyan, Omar Abdulrahman and Ibrahim Diaky.
Al Sadd captain Talal Al Balooshi said in Doha: “We tried our best. We made some changes for this game. It was a tough game. We had the chances to score at the fag end of the game but luck was not on our side.”
Al Balooshi added: “We could have played better but certainly we gave it our best shot. Al Sadd were up against a tough side.”
Al Hilal skipper Yasser Al Qahtani said: “We did it for our fans who came in large numbers. We tried our best to score at least one goal so that we could hold a big lead but Al Sadd fought well. This victory is for our fans.”
Yesterday’s clash — played in front of a near-packed Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium — was game seven for Al Hilal when they did not concede a goal in this year’s tournament.
After a delayed start of nearly 20 minutes, Al Sadd’s Nadir Belhadj provided a looping pass yo team-mate Abdulkarim Hassan who failed to head home from close range in the 10th minute.
In the 15th minute, Al Hilal midfielder Mihai Pintili brought down Rodrigo Tabata with a vicious tackle but the referee urged players to play on, much to the dismay of the home team.
In the 30th minute, Al Sadd’s Karim had a clear shot at goal but a defender blocked it with a sliding dive.
Seconds later, Al Hilal’s Thiago Neves went solo with a shot from the edge of the Al Sadd box but goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb pocketed the fierce shot. Two minutes later, Al Hilal midfielder Salem Al Dawsari tried a solo move from the edge of the box but his shot sailed above the crossbar.
Close to the end of the stalemate, Al Sadd forward Saleh Al Yazidi was provided with a near-perfect cross by Hassan Al Haydos but the diminutive striker could only end the move with a weak header with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Seconds later, Al Yazidi beat the Al Hilal goalkeeper but the ball hit the goalpost and bounced back much to the dismay of the home fans.