Asian holders exit as semi-final line-up set
AFC Champions League holders Kashima Antlers eliminated
Two-time winners Guangzhou and Urawa progress
Al Hilal prevail in an all-Saudi affair
The door slammed shut on the 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-final stage with Al Sadd, Al Hilal, Guangzhou Evergrande and Urawa Red Diamonds through to reach the last four.
The standout result saw two-time winners Guangzhou eliminate defending champions Kashima Antlers to set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with Urawa, who saw off Shanghai SIPG. Al Hilal, meanwhile, swept past Al Ittihad and awaiting them in the next stage are Al Sadd, who fought from behind to dispatch Al Nassr 4-3 on aggregate.
(26-28 August & 16-18 September)
Al Nassr 3-4 agg. Al Sadd (2-1, 1-3)
Al Ittihad 1-3 agg. Al Hilal (0-0, 1-3)
Shanghai SIPG 3-3 agg. Urawa Red Diamonds (2-2, 1-1)
Guangzhou Evergrande 1-1 agg. Kashima Antlers (0-0, 1-1)
Al Sadd 3-1 Al Nassr
Akram Afif was on target and earned a spot-kick as Al Sadd bounced back to win 3-1 at home against Al Nassr. The result, coupled with their 2-1 away loss, saw Xavi Hernandez's side progress 4-3 on aggregate. Afif headed the home team in front on 26 minutes but Abderrazak Hamdallah equalised seven minutes later as the pair ended the first half locked at 1-1.
Al Sadd heaped on the pressure after the restart with captain Hassan Al Haydos striking on the hour to restore their lead and level the aggregate scoreline. With so much at stake, Afif was brought down in the area and, from the ensuing penalty kick, Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah made no mistake from the spot to seal the hard-fought aggregate victory.
The other attractions
Despite being held to a goalless draw at Al Ittihad, Al Hilal came to life in the return match, coming from behind to win 3-1 at home to advance to the last four. In what was an all-Saudi affair, Ziyad Al Sahafi opened the scoring for the visitors inside ten minutes but the hosts levelled just before the break, Salem Al Dawsari laying the ball for Andre Carrillo to equalise. Provider then turned scorer shortly after the restart, putting the home side in front with a powerful header. With twelve minutes left, Italian Sebastian Giovinco ran on to a through ball to seal the tie.
A 1-1 draw at home against Shanghai SIPG was enough to see Urawa Red Diamonds through on away goals courtesy of their 2-2 first-leg draw. In-form striker Shinzo Koroki opened the scoring for the hosts six minutes before the break with his seventh goal of the campaign before Wang Shenchao struck on the hour-mark to draw the visitors level. The remainder of the match saw Shanghai press hard in desperate search for a winner but the home team held firm to seal their place in the last four.
Elsewhere, defending champions Kashima Antlers were knocked out at the hands of Guangzhou Evergrande after drawing 1-1 at home. Serginho cancelled out Anderson Talisca's first-half goal as the Japanese hosts came from behind. But it wasn’t enough, as Fabio Cannavaro's visitors progressed on away goals thanks to their goalless first leg.
7 - The aggregate victory over Kashima saw Guangzhou maintain their overwhelming record against J.League sides. They have so far won all seven ties with Japanese teams in the AFC Champions League knockout stage.
What they said
“I took charge of Al Sadd a month and a half ago and I’m happy with what I have achieved,” he said. “I want to thank the fans who supported us tonight as they were one of the key reasons for this victory.” Xavi Hernandez, Al Sadd head coach