Al Sadd wins Asian Champions League on penalties

Jeonju, South Korea: Qatari team Al Sadd lifted the 2011 Asian Champions League trophy on Saturday after a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea at Jeonju World Cup Stadium.

Goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr saved two penalties in the shootout to leave Nadir Belhadji to score the winning spot-kick after the game had finished 2-2.

While Al Sadd won the tournament in its former guise in 1989, it is the first win for a Qatari team since the Champions League started in 2003 and it ends five consecutive triumphs for South Korea and Japan.

“I think I am not in the best condition to analyze the game,” Al Sadd coach Jorge Fossati said.”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 is the first team to come through the qualifying stage to win the competition. The Qatari team was only granted entrance after a Vietnamese team was disqualified for failing to submit the correct documentation.

In the quarterfinals, Al Sadd lost both legs to Sepahan but still progressed to the last four after it was discovered that the Iranians had fielded an ineligible player.

The semifinal win over Suwon Bluewings, also of Korea, was marred by a massive brawl that erupted after Al Sadd scored a controversial goal.

The team from Doha collects $1.5 million for winning the tournament and will represent the Asian Football Confederation at the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.

Jeonbuk, winner in 2006 and playing in front of its own fans, 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.”

The Korean team took the lead with just 20 minutes on the clock. Brazilian playmaker Eninho curled home a free-kick from 20 yards for his seventh goal of the tournament.

Just 10 minutes later however, Jeonbuk defender Sim Woo-yeon headed a Kader Keita cross into his own net from close range.

Keita scored what looked to be the decisive goal after 61 minutes. The Ivory Coast midfielder collected the ball outside the area, skipped past a defender and fired home a fierce low shot.

Jeonbuk, which had won all six games at home in the 2011 tournament, pushed forward with increasing desperation only to be frustrated by the woodwork and Saqr.

With the game into added time, substitute Lee Hyun-sung headed home an Eninho corner at the far post to send the game into extra time in front of a passionate crowd of 42,000.

The hosts continued to create chances but were unable to find the decisive goal as the game drifted towards penalties.

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.

“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.”

Bureau Report

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