2019 fifa club world cup

Al Sadd beat fighting Hienghene to enter FIFA Club World Cup quarterfinals

Doha, Qatar: Qatar's Al Sadd had to sweat it out for 120 odd minutes against a spirited Hienghene Sport to book their spot in the quarterfinals of the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday.

Coming from New Caledonia, a tiny archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean known for its natural beauty, little known Hienghene – a team of amateurs and semi-professionals – were the romantic story of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar even before the start and they a gave a fighting account of themselves in the opening match of the tournament at Al Sadd Stadium to add to that.

Al Sadd, comprising the AFC player of the year in Akram Afif, a number of international stars from Qatar, Algeria and South Korea and coached by Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez, were heavyweights compared to  Hienghene, who, however, were having none of it.

And they gave early signs that they meant business as in the 6th minute Cedric Sansot caught Sadd defence off guard with a long ball into the box where Jefferson Dahite, despite being in a promising position, only managed to hit the side netting.

A few minutes later  Hienghene again threatened and  Saad Al Sheeb had to dive to his right to to stop Amy Roine's acrobatic overhead kick from going in.

Sadd, despite not being their fluent best, had plenty of possession in  Hienghene penalty area and they made it count in the 26th minute.

Left-back Abdelkarim Hassan, always happy to join the attack, whipped in a cross and Algerian international Baghdad Bounedjah moved away from his marker before connecting it first time past Rocky Nyikeine in Hienghene goal.

But the visitors continued to surprise Sadd and Roine failed to direct his header on target with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Sadd thought they had a second goal when Akram Afif swept home the rebound after Boualem Khoukhi's free-kick proved too hot to handle for Nyikeine who spilt it, but VAR came to Hienghene's rescue as Hassan Al Haysous was in an offside position.

Uncharacteristically Shaky in defence, Sadd were lucky to take their one-goal advantage into the half-time break, but the lead was gone within a couple of minutes of the restart.

Roine, easily the most dangerous Hienghene player, won a 50-50 challenge against Jung Woo Young which left the South Korean on the turf, before regaining his own balance to find the back of the net with a clinical finish past Al Sheeb.

Though referee Mustapha Ghorbal of Algeria initially gave a foul against Roine, the decision was reversed after a long VAR check. 

The onus was on Sadd to take the attack to their rivals, who showed exemplary fighting spirit in warding off Qatar champions.

Goalkeeper Nyikeine was in inspirational form, making a series of stunning saves to deny Gabi and Hassan while right back Joseph Athale also made two telling goal-line clearances against Khoukhi and Bounedjah. 

In between, Sadd had the ball in  Hienghene net in the 66th minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside for a second time.

Afif had a glorious chance to win it in added time but with the goal at his mercy, and the goalkeeper down, he sent his shot high over the bar, making extra-time inevitable.

It continued to be a tale of missed chances for Sadd as Jung sent his shot from close range high, while Hassan's stretched attempt rolled harmlessly across the goalline.

Sadd finally found the luck they were looking for, and ironically, it came in the form of a mistake from Nyikeine, arguably the best player on the day, at least for the visitors.

Hienghene had enough time to deal with a harmless ball, which central defender Cedric Sansot left for the goalkeeper after taking a touch himself, but a lapse in concentration resulted in Nyikeine picking it with his hand which resulted in an indirect freekick and a yellow card for himself.

Hassan would not let go of the chance this time and blasted the ball right through the middle in the 100th minute.

Sadd had more chances to make the game safe in the second half of extra time and after Athale made his third goalline stop, Bounedjah hit the crossbar, and Afif drew a save from Nyikeine, Pedro did exactly that when he blasted home from close range to make 3-1 in the 114th minute.

Sadd will take on Mexican side Monterrey in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

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