0628 GMT January 18, 2020
Losing is not important, but to “be back on our feet again”, said Winfried Schäfer coach of the Persian Gulf Pro League club Esteghlal.
“I should say we will come back again. We will solve the problems within our family,” he added commenting on his side’s disappointing home performance in its Monday night’s first-leg tie against Qatar's Al Sadd in the semifinals of the 2018 AFC Champions League (ACL), which ended with a scoreline of 1-3 in favor of the Qatari powerhouse, 90tv.ir reported.
Schäfer said he has to, and definitely will, change certain things that are taking place around his team.
Acknowledging his side’s poor performance in the second half of the match, he noted that, his side failed to display good quality and control the match well.
In case players had greater focus, none of the four goals in this game had been scored, Esteghlal coach added.
“In the last 30 minutes, we made mistakes that I do not understand [them]. We knew that we were going to play against a great team that has outstanding players such as Xavi [Hernández Creus], Gabi (Gabriel Fernández Arenas) and the South Korean one [Jung Woo-young].”
He stressed that his team will rest for two days and after that “we will speak to them”.
Al Sadd took a big step towards the semifinals after Baghdad Bounedjah's brace secured the team a 3-1 comeback win over Esteghlal.
The 2011 champion began the game brightly but was dealt a blow in the 12th minute, conceding after an unfortunate mistake, the-afc.com wrote.
A high ball into the Al Sadd box was headed down by Boualem Khoukhi for his keeper Meshaal Aissa to pick up, but the young custodian inadvertently let it slip past him to gift the host an opener.
Esteghlal maintained its lead right up to halftime, after surviving a scare in injury time when Akram Afif's shot rebounded off the post to be gathered by Esteghlal keeper Mehdi Rahmati.
In the second half, Al Sadd came out of the tunnel looking for a way back into the game and were rewarded for its attacking intent with a goal at the hour mark following a well-worked move. After a fine one-two with Bounedjah, Afif beat his marker and finished past Rahmati to level the score.
Five minutes later, Bounedjah latched onto Xavi's flicked through ball, made his way into the box, turned Mohammad Daneshgar inside out before slotting home Al Sadd's second goal.
Bounedjah then made it 3-1 for the Qataris in the 74th minute after winning and then converting the penalty, following a foul on him by Vouria Ghafouri.
Al Sadd will now take home a valuable advantage ahead of the return leg in Doha on September 17.
Commenting on the match, Al Sadd head coach Jesualdo Ferreira said Esteghlal put in a better performance than his side in the first half.
“We were not good [in the first half] as we did not have [sufficient] self-confidence.”
He added, “In the second half, however, we were good for 30 minutes and managed to obtain the [desired] result.”
Neverthless, he added, given the experience he has, he knows that the game is not finished yet.
Esteghlal did not deserve to lose like this, he said, adding, however, a penalty changed the course of the game.
In his post-match remarks Al Sadd’s central midfielder Xavi said, “Prior to this, we had come to Azadi stadium a few times and [each time] the atmosphere [of the stadium] had always helped Iranians to win the match with the assistance of their fans.”
He said his team’s goalkeeper was young and, thus, let in the goal under the impact of the atmosphere of the match and the stadium.
“However, our other players had the experience of playing in this Iranian stadium and were not influenced by its atmosphere to win the match with a very good result.”
Expressing reluctance with commenting on the Iranian side’s performance, Xavi said, “Esteghlal did not play rationally. Of course, I know that it has lost some of its good players after the [2018 Russia] World Cup such as [its former defensive midfielder] Omid Ebrahimi who has moved to Qatar’s league this year.”
Al Sadd’s striker and best scorer Bounedjah said, “I am very happy as we clinched a very good victory, particularly, as we managed to score late in the game and turn the match around. We scored three very important goals in the second half. They handed us an important victory and helped us take an important step towards going through to the semifinals.”