QNB Stars League leaders Al Sadd bounced back brilliantly to score a 3-1 victory over Iran’s Esteghlal in their AFC Champions League quarterfinal first-leg tie at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Monday.
Ace Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah struck twice as Al Sadd made a giant leap towards the semifinals.
The return leg will be played at the Al Sadd Stadium on 17th September.
Al Sadd, who won Asia’s top club tournament in 2011 and also in 1988 before the competition was revamped, started the game brightly, but were dealt a blow in the 12th minute as they conceded an own goal.
A high ball into the Al Sadd box was headed down by Boualem Khoukhi for his goalkeeper Meshaal Barshim to pick up, but the latter inadvertently let it slip past him to gift the hosts an opener.
Esteghlal maintained their lead right up to half-time, after surviving a scare in injury time when Akram Afif’s shot rebounded off the post to be gathered by goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati.
In the second half, Al Sadd strove hard to get back into the game and were rewarded for their attacking intent with a goal at the hour mark following a fine move. After a one-two with Bounedjah, Akram beat his marker and finished past Rahmati to level the score.
Five minutes later, Bounedjah latched onto Xavi Hernandez’s flicked through ball, made his way into the box and turned Mohammad Daneshgar inside out before slotting home Al Sadd’s second goal.
Bounedjah then made it 3-1 for the Qatari side in the 74th minute after winning and then converting the penalty, following a foul on him by Vouria Ghafouri.
Al Sadd had won four of their six matches while losing two en route to finishing second behind Iran’s Persepolis in Group C that also included Uzbekistan’s Nasaf and the UAE’s Al Wasl.
The Wolves, coached by Portuguese Jesualdo Ferreira, defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli 4-3 on aggregate in the Round of 16 to book their quarterfinal berth for the first time since 2014.
Esteghlal were Group D winners ahead of Al Ain, Al Hilal and Al Rayyan. They beat Zob Ahan, also of Iran, in the Round of 16.