Nervy Al Hilal advance to Asian final despite defeat
Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal held on for a 6-5 aggregate win over Al Sadd in the Asian Champions League semifinals on Tuesday, denying Xavi Hernandez a place in the final in his first season as coach of the Qatari club. Al Sadd won the second leg 4-2 in Riyadh, but it wasn't enough to overturn a 4-1 home loss from the first leg.
Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal held their nerve on Tuesday to book a place in the final of the Asian Champions League next month, despite losing 4-2 to Al Sadd from Qatar in the second leg of their semi-final.
Razvan Lucescu's side progressed with a 6-5 aggregate win over the club from Doha, after a 4-1 victory in the first leg and they will now meet either Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds or Guangzhou Evergrande from China in the final.
Al Hilal were made to work for a place in their third Asian Champions League final since 2014 - they lost in both 2014 and 2017 - as the Xavi Hernandez-coached visitors threatened a remarkable turnaround.
Al Hilal looked to have put the result beyond doubt when Salem Al Dawsari opened the scoring 13 minutes into the game to extend their overall advantage, but three goals in three minutes gave Al Sadd hope.
Akram Afif's 17th minute penalty was swiftly followed by a clinical finish from Nam Tae-hee and a goal from Hassan Al Haydos, so that by the 20th minute Al Sadd were leading 3-1 on the night and trailing 5-4 on aggregate.
But five minutes later, the home side restored some of their overall advantage when Bafetimbi Gomis tucked away his effort following Sebastian Giovinco's pass.
The Frenchman's goal, his 10th in this year's competition, was to prove decisive and, although Boualem Khouki headed in Al Sadd's fourth of the night in injury time to set up a dramatic finish, the Qataris fell short of completing an astonishing comeback.
Al Hilal will host the first leg of the final on Nov.9 with the second leg on Nov. 24. Urawa hold a 2-0 lead going into the second leg of semi-final on Wednesday.