Doha, Qatar: Hassan Al Haydos is usually happy playing the role of the unsung hero, giving his all on the pitch for others around him to flourish and taker the limelight.
On Tuesday at his home turf, the Qatar captain gave another wholehearted performance, but this time he scored two goals and had a big role in the other to emerge as the star performer as Al Sadd blanked Sepahan of Iran 3-0.
The victory helped Xavi Hernandez coached Sadd surge to the top of Group D with four points in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
Al Nassr, who defeated Al Ain 2-1, also have four points, but Sadd have a superior goal difference.
Sadd had drawn with Al Nassr in their first match in Riyadh and were in search of all three points right from the start.
And they came close to finding the target as early as the second minute after Nam Tae Hee found Akram Afif, whose shot clipped goalkeeper Payam Niazmand’s legs, allowing Ali Taklimi to clear the ball before it crossed the goal line.
With his quick burst of speed and close control, Afif was at his menacing on the inside left channel, and Sadd were all over the Iranians early in the match.
Aff had a shot blocked by defence while Jung Woo Young’s long-ranger also hit the crowded defence.
Sepahan weathered the initial onslaught and even looked dangerous when they had the ball in Sadd half, but Saad Al Sheeb was largely untroubled in Saddd goal.
Mohammed Mohebbi’s shot that whizzed past the left post and his header that sailed over the bar were Sepahan’s best chances in the opening half.
At the other end, Baghdad Bounedjah and Afif were combining superbly only to be lacking with the final pass.
And when Afif found Bounedjah after a beautiful move and the Algerian managed a shot in the 44th, Sepahan keeper Payam Niazmand came up with the save.
The very next moment Afif flashed his shot wide as Sadd finished the half in ascendency.
Xavi’s men started the second half also in fast pace.
A slick passing move saw Nam free inside the box for a moment, but he took too much time to pull the trigger and was crowded out.
However it did not take much time for Sadd to take the lead, which came in the 51st minute, through Afif.
Al Haydos broke a Sepahan move and after receiving the loose ball from Gabi, he surged ahead and found Bounedjah with a beautiful through pass.
The Algerian striker, in turn, found Afif who finished off with a delicate dink.
In the 57 minute, Al Haydos again won the ball in the midfield and released Nam who exchanged passes with Afif before unleashing a powerful shot which was saved by Payam.
Five minutes later, Al Sheeb had to make an acrobatic save to deny Sepahan captain Mehdi Kiani, whose powerful right-footer was destined for the top right corner before being fisted away to safety by the Sadd keeper.
Sadd then doubled the lead in the 72nd as Al Haydos got ahead of his marker to connect Bounedjah’s cross from the right.
The Wolves were now complete control and in the 78th, Afif carved through Sepahan defence through the left and pulled the ball back where a late-arriving Al Haydos happily obliged.
Substitute Mohammed Waad also came close to scoring with a beautiful left-footer, and it needed a fingertip save from Payam to deny him. It would have been a moment to cherish for the youngster, but for Sadd it already was a match to remember.