Dammam, 9 April 2022- Head coach Javi Gracia expressed his pride in his side’s performance as nine-man Al Sadd held out for a 1-1 draw against FC Nasaf in their opening match of the AFC Champions League (ACL) 2022 Group E on Friday.
The Qatari champions found themselves a goal and a man down half an hour into the game after Abdelkarim Hassan received a direct red card, having brought down Shahzod Akramov when he was through on goal. Nasaf took immediate advantage, opening the scoring through a Pedro Miguel own goal.
Al Sadd battled to equalise through Boualem Khoukhi’s header early in the second half, but Miguel’s night went from bad to worse as he followed in the footsteps of his fellow full-back Hassan, heading for an early bath after a second bookable offence, leaving Gracia’s side struggling with nine men.
“It was a tough game,” said the Spaniard. “We started well, maintaining possession and creating 2-3 chances, but we did not take them and after that, things changed because we were down to 10 men, then to nine.”
“I can say I’m really proud of the effort of my players because we competed very well despite the two red cards. We showed a good mentality. We had to defend, and we did it. One point is not enough, but I’m proud of my players.”
Al Sadd will now have to face Group E hosts Al Faisaly on Monday without both starting full-backs, but Gracia was adamant the most difficult part was behind his side already.
“We knew before coming and starting this competition that we are going to need all the players in the squad. We were not sure when, but we knew in the next five games we will need them.
“I trust all my squad. The moment we suffered and had to make an extra effort was when we were two men down, but the next game will not be a problem.”
Returning to the ACL after a four-year absence, Nasaf had a mountain to climb against a team that had reached the semi-finals twice in the past five years, but head coach Ruzikul Berdiev felt this was an opportunity missed for his team.
“There were a lot of moments in the match. It is not so bad to have a draw with Al Sadd, but the way the match unfolded, we should have won,” he said.