Barcelona legend Xavi disappointed not to win on managerial debut in AFC Champions League

Matt Jones - Editor 18:15 07/08/2019
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Barcelona icon Xavi took charge of his first game as a coach on Tuesday.

Barcelona legend Xavi was disappointed he could not mark his managerial debut with victory as Al Sadd earned a 1-1 draw in their AFC Champions League last 16 first leg tie with fellow Qataris Al Duhail.

The iconic former Blaugrana midfielder was making his debut in the dugout having been appointed head coach in May after ending his playing days with Al Sadd.

Akram Afif struck first for the visitors after half an hour, drilling home Jung Woo-young’s chipped pass. Tunisia forward Youssef Msakni levelled for former Jose Mourinho assistant Rui Faria’s hosts in the second half to set up an intriguing return leg in Doha next week.

“I am satisfied with the performance,” said the 39-year-old Xavi, who signed for Sadd after leaving Barca in 2015 following 17 trophy-laden years in Catalonia.

“We could have won but now there is another game remaining, which will be played at our home ground and we are thinking about that game now.

“My only disappointment today is that we didn’t win. It is not a bad result as we scored an away goal, but we deserved more than that. What makes me happy is how the players performed on the pitch.”

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Xavi got his managerial career under way against the same side he ended his playing days against just two months earlier.

Korean playmaker Nam Tae-hee made his debut for Sadd against his former team, lasting 65 minutes on his return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, before being substituted.

“Nam is returning from a seven-month injury lay-off, but he came back strongly and gave a good performance today. I am proud of what he had to offer,” added the World Cup and four-time Champions League winner.

In Tuesday’s other game in west Asia, Al Hilal took control of their all-Saudi Arabia last 16 clash with Al Ahli Jeddah, with former Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis netting a hat-trick in a 4-2 win.

Birthday boy Gomis had his cake and ate it as he drew the away side level twice after going behind, before making it 3-2 to the Crescent just after the hour, while Abdullah Al Hafith added a fourth to give Hilal the edge in the battle of the Riyadh rivals.

Syrian striker Omar Al Somah gave Ahli the lead after six minutes, Gomis heading in Peruvian winger Andre Carillo’s cushioned header soon after to level things up.

Cape Verde attacker Djaniny regained the lead for Ahli before half-time but former France international Gomis equalised again just after the break, volleying home after Sebastian Giovinco’s free-kick had been spilled. The ex-Juventus attacker then set up Gomis for his hat-trick before Al Hafith sealed victory.

Gomis, celebrating his 34th birthday, tweeted after the game: “Very good first outing for our team. I was so Glad to find so many people at the stadium, for this beautiful victory.

“The hardest remains to be done, we will do everything to continue as this inshallah, thanks again for your  messages and support.”

The winners could face another Saudi side in the quarter-finals, with Al Ittihad leading Iran’s Zob Ahan 2-1 from their first leg encounter.

Rui Vitoria, meanwhile, rued his side’s missed chances as Al Nassr – the fourth Saudi side in the knockouts – were held to a 1-1 draw with Abu Dhabi giants Al Wahda on Monday.

“We started very well and had several chances, we didn’t take them. Al Wahda did and they scored from their only real chance,” said the Portuguese who took over at Nassr in January after four years in charge at Benfica.

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