DOHA: Al Duhail struggled to hold Al Sadd 1-1 in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League round of 16 here at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah on Tuesday evening.
Youssef Msakni, who rejoined the Amir Cup champions after a loan spell at Qatar-sponsored KAS Eupen in Belgium this season, cancelled out Akram Afif’s opener for the reigning Qatar Stars League champions.
It was an important match for former Barcelona star and Sadd captain Xavi Hernandez, who made his managerial debut on the night.
There were also debuts for Nam Tae-Hee, who swapped sides, joining Sadd from Duhail while Iraq’s 19-year-old Mohanad Ali on the other side.
“We were better than Duhail. I’ve been working with the players for three weeks and I’m happy with their performance,” said Xavi, who took over from Jesualdo Fereira end of this 2018-19 season.
The draw has put Sadd in an advantageous position on away goal rule ahead of next week’s return leg.
The winners will face either Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia or Al Wahda of the UAE in the quarterfinals.
“I felt very good at coaching this team, but my only disappointment was that we couldn’t win this match despite creating so many chances,” Xavi said.
Akram, who drew first blood at the half-hour mark, made good use of an overhead pass by South Korean international Jung Woo-Young, who caught the Al Duhail defence napping.
But Duhail captain Msakni fired home the equalized minute before the first half with a neatly-struck half-volley from edge of the box.