|Al Sadd were under pressure throughout the final at Jeonju’s World Cup stadium but defended bravely to win [AFP]|
Qatar’s Al Sadd have won their first Asian Football Confederation Champions League title by stunning Jeonbuk Motors 4-2 on penalties following an enthralling 2-2 extra-time draw.
“I think I am not in the best condition to analyse the game,” Al Sadd’s coach Jorge Fossati said after the victory on Saturday night in the South Korean city of Jeonju.
“At this moment, my feeling is stronger than my reason. From my point of view, the two teams should be congratulated as big champions.”
Al Sadd goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr saved two penalties in the shootout with Nadir Belhadj scoring the winning kick to seal the $5m first prize and a place at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan next month.
Jeonbuk, winner in 2006, had numerous opportunities but hit the woodwork three times and also found Saqr in excellent form.
“Today, Saqr was fantastic but that was not the only game in this competition in which he was fantastic,” Fossati said. “Jeonbuk players did not miss the penalties, he saved them. In the game also, he made two or three very important saves. One in the last minute was extraordinary.”
Al Sadd were under pressure throughout the final at Jeonju’s World Cup stadium but defended bravely and took two of their few chances to seal an unlikely triumph at the end of a campaign that began in the qualifiers in February.
Heavy favourites Jeonbuk, roared on by a passionate 41,805 home crowd, looked stronger at the start and deservedly took the lead through their Brazilian playmaker Eninho in the 19th minute.
The Brazilian was brought down on the edge of the area by Wesam Rizik but picked himself up to fire a sharp, curling,
right-foot free kick into the corner of the net past a motionless Saqr.
The Koreans failed to build on their early lead and the Qataris went level 10 minutes later thanks to an own goal by
defender Sim Woo-yeon.
The skilful Kader Keita clipped a right-footed cross towards goal and the ball flicked off the head of Sim and past
Kim Min-sik who stayed on his line when he should probably have moved to clear it.
Jeonbuk took control of the game as Al Sadd sank back, happy to defend as the Koreans wasted a number of chances. They were punished when Keita scored a brilliant counter-attack goal for the visitors in the 61st minute.
Belhadj broke down the left and fed Ibrahim Khalfan whose cross was brilliantly controlled by Ivorian Keita who then
managed to fire the bouncing ball low into the corner of Kim’s goal.
The goal looked set to be the winner as Jeonbuk squandered more chances while Saqr mixed brilliant saves with horrendous errors. Then Jeonbuk substitute Lee Seung-hyun scored a 92nd-minute header to force extra time after the keeper had failed to clear a corner.
Kim Dong-chan and Lee Hyun-sung saw their kicks well-saved by Saqr and while Lee Jung-soo’s miss for Al Sadd gave the home fans hope, it was Al Sadd who took the title.
Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee, looking for his second continental title, felt that his team missed too many opportunities.
“Tonight’s defeat came from so many chances from which we failed to score,” he said. “Conceding the first goal was decisive. Some of our players got too excited during the game.”
Kang-hee continued: “I told the players we would have chances to score in extra time but we were not able to take them. It is very frustrating to lose in this way but the players did all they could.”