One of the oldest football clubs in Qatar, Al Sadd is the only team from the small Gulf nation to have won the AFC Champions League, a feat it first achieved in 1989 when the competition was known as the Asian Club Championship. The Doha-based giants have a local pedigree to match, with over 30 domestic titles to their name.
Some 22 years after their first continental triumph, Al Sadd made a dramatic return to the top of Asian football when they were crowned 2011 AFC Champions League victors courtesy of a skilfully selected blend of experienced veterans and talented youngsters.
With four years having passed since Al Sadd’s last Qatar Stars League title, the AFC Champions League campaign came at a crucial moment, boosting morale for the domestic campaign and proving the worth of the latest crop of players from the club’s academy, whose most famous graduate is 2006 Asian Player of the Year Khalfan Ibrahim.
Facts and figures
Ibrahim Khalfan, Khalid Salman, Jaffal Rashid, Fahad Al Kuwari, Abede Pele, Romario, Frank Leboeuf, Ali Daei, Karim Bagheri, John Utaka
Forced to pre-qualify, Al Sadd began their campaign with a 5-1 win over Saudi side Al Ittihad in their West Asian play-off semi-final, then beat India’s Dempo SC 2-0 in the final to qualify for the group stage. Drawn in Group B alongside Saudi Arabia’s Al Nasr, Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor and Iran’s Esteghlal, the Qataris did not lose a single game en route to topping their section with ten points.
In the single-leg round of 16, Al Sadd hosted Saudi outfit Al Shabab, beating them 1-0 to progress to the quarter-final where they faced Iran’s Sepahan. Awarded a 3-0 victory in the first leg after the Iranians fielded an illegal player, a 2-1 second-leg loss in Doha was not enough to stop them going through.
The semi-final against Suwon Bluewings of Korea Republic was another nail-biter, a 2-0 first-leg win away from home nearly scuppered by a defeat at home, but Al Sadd hung on after going 1-0 down to reach the final.
Their opponents for the tournament decider were another South Korean side, this time the mighty Jeonbuk Motors, who hosted the match at the FIFA World Cup stadium in Seoul. With 40,000 supporters roaring the home side on, Al Sadd conceded first but fought back to equalise before half-time, then went ahead midway through the second half, only for Jeonbuk to claw their back in the second minute of stoppage time. With no more goals during extra time, the game went to a penalty shoot-out, with goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr blocking two shots, allowing Algerian Nadir Belhadj to seal Al Sadd’s victory with the last strike of the match.
The numbers game
15 – The number of matches played by Al Sadd on their long road to the final, with eight wins, four draws and just two defeats, scoring a total of 24 goals and conceding 12.
|1||Saad AL SHEEB|
|4||LEE Jung Soo|
|8||Mesaad AL HAMAD|
|10||Mohammed AL YAZIDI|
|11||Hasan AL HAYDOS|
|14||Khalfan AL KHALFAN|