Hosts Al-Sadd Sports Club took a step towards a dream meeting with Liverpool at the FIFA Club World Cup in the Qatari capital of Doha today as they won their opening match against Oceania champions Hienghène Sport, from New Caledonia.
Their 3-1 win after extra-time takes them through to a match against CONCACAF champions CF Monterrey on Saturday (December 14) for the right to meet England’s UEFA Champions League winners tomorrow week (December 18) in the air-conditioned Khalifa International Stadium.
Al Sadd, winners of their domestic league and AFC Champions League semi-finalists this year, competed once before in this competition, in 2011, when they finished third.
They are guided by Xavi Hernandez, the Barcelona superstar midfielder who won that 2011 edition and has since played for Al Sadd for four years before taking over the coaching role.
The home side had a great start in the Jassim Bin Hammad Stadium as Baghdad Bounedjah gave them the lead after 26 minutes and five minutes before half-time it looked as if the same player had doubled the lead, only for the effort to be disallowed through a video assistant referee review for offside.
The Oceania champions hit back however, equalising in the first minute of the second-half through Amy Roine before a crowd of 7,047.
The match went into extra-time, and 10 minutes into the first period Abdelkarim Hassan restored the Al Sadd lead.
Pedro Miguel made it safe with a third goal after 114 minutes.
Liverpool and CR Flamengo of Brazil, the Copa Libertadores champions, are the two top-seeded teams at the 16th edition of this event in the Qatar capital.
They are due to contest semi-finals against opponents who will emerge from three earlier rounds involving four other continental winners and the home team.
Saturday will also see a match between Asian champions Al-Hilal from Saudi Arabia and African champions ES Tunis, with the winner meeting Flamengo on December 17.
The final and third-place match are scheduled be held on December 21.