Doha, Qatar: It was Xavi Hernandez’s farewell match, while Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira was also leaving the club after the season. The ideal script would be Barcelona and Spain great Xavi inspiring Sadd to another victory in the final match of his professional career and receiving the trophy from HH The Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Except that Paulo Edmilson had different ideas.
The Duhail winger tore up the script Xavi and Sadd had with them as he scored two beautiful goals and provided an assist to Youssef El Arabi to lead the Red Knights’ brilliant comeback from a goal and a man down and win 4-1.
Duhail captain Karim Boudiaf and Mohammed Moosa received the trophy from HH The Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani along with Ahmed Yassir and Ali Afif who both put on splendid displays, while Xavi and Co were left wondering how they managed to mess up so badly.
Earlier a dazzling display of light and sound and fireworks was used to depict the history of Al Wakrah while HH The Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani tweeted on his verified account ahead of kick-off that the ground's name would be changed to 'Al Janoub stadium' which means 'The South Stadium'.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino and a number of yesteryear stars including Cafu and Ruud Gullit were there to witness the opening and the match in which Sadd started off in style.
They needed just six minutes to make their mark.
Xavi started the move with a regulation pass to the right wing where Hassan Al Haydous took over and crossed the ball for Gabi.
The Spanish midfielder took a touch and back-heeled the ball for Akram Afif, who had plenty of time to pick his spot and blast home with his right foot.
Minutes later, Baghdad drew a save from Lecomte with a right-footer from outside the box as Duhail looked shaky.
After the initial jitters, Rui Faria’s men tried to strike back, with Edmilson wasting an opportunity by hitting the side netting from a promising position while Ali Afif directed his freekick straight at Saad Al Sheeb.
Ali Afif did find the target with a deflected shot in the 16th minute from inside the box after a fine pass from Almoez Ali.
That was Almoez only real contribution as ten minutes later he saw a straight red card for stamping on Baghdad’s right foot but it looked an extremely harsh decision.
It was a big blow for Duhail who had already lost two of their regular starters — Karim Boudiaf and Bassam Al Rawi to injuries before the start.
But they managed to go for the half-time break without any more mishaps even though Sadd had the bulk of possession and a couple of chances to regain the lead.
Sadd came close to scoring at the start of the second half with Lecomte somehow managing to save Akram Afif’s header from close range.
At that moment it looked like Sadd were getting ready to run over their opponents but within a few minutes the game turned on its head and Edmilson was at the centre of it all.
The 24-year-old, who came from Standard Liege at the start of the season, first cancelled out Sadd’s numerical advantage in the 55th minute when he proved too fast for Tarek Salman, who ended up fouling the Belgian-Brazilian winger just when he was breaking into the box.
Referee Al Jassim gave a straight red card to Salman, which again seemed a bit harsh.
Though Duhail could not make anything out of that opportunity, they had the game in their firm grip in no time.
Ali Afif’s ball into the box in the 58th was a beauty and Edmilson’s short diagonal run and left-footed finish was even more special.
Four minutes later Edmilson proved the provider with a perfect cross for substitute Youssef El Arabi after turning Gabi inside out on the right, and the Moroccan striker who came on as a substitute for an off colour Nakajima Shoya, chested the ball home.
Sadd heads were totally down while Duhail kept coming at them, and Edmilson finished off the Wolves in the 81st minute with a left-footer from the edge of the box after being found by Ali Afif.
Edmilson took off to the corner flag to break into a little jig where he was joined by his ecstatic team-mates.
The game turned ugly towards the end as substitute Hamad Ismael got his marching orders after a second yellow card for a foul on Mohammed Muntari while in the melee which ensued, Baghdad Bounedjah shoved Ahmed Yasser on the face and got himself a red card after VAR.
In did not matter much, for Sadd were well and truly beaten by then.