News ID: 253141
Published: 0150 GMT May 21, 2019

Ex-Barcelona star Xavi's last match ends in defeat for Al Sadd

Ex-Barcelona star Xavi's last match ends in defeat for Al Sadd
the-afc.com
Al Sadd’s Xavi poses for a photo with a Persepolis No. 6 jersey he received before an AFC Champions League game at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran, on May 20, 2019.

Xavi Hernandez's dazzling career came to a low-key end when his Qatari side Al Sadd was beaten 2-0 by Iranian giant Persepolis in their last group match of the AFC Champions League on Monday.

The 39-year-old midfield genius, who helped Spain win the World Cup in 2010 and won four UEFA Champions League titles and eight La Liga titles with Barcelona, was cheered by fans at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran where already-eliminated Persepolis produced an improved display to register only its second win in six matches, AFP reported.

Just 11,000 spectators were present in the 100,000-capacity stadium, mostly wearing the red of Persepolis, which won the Persian Gulf Pro League title days before this match.

Several home fans brandished banners reading "Adios Xavi" to show their appreciation of the player who with Andres Iniesta formed the backbone of one of Barcelona's greatest ever sides.

Xavi was also honored by the Persepolis management who presented him with a jersey featuring the number six he has worn in his career.

 

Low-key sendoff

 

Xavi, who became the first player in history to play 150 UEFA Champions League matches, has indicated that he will stay in Qatar to begin a coaching career, probably remaining in a highly-paid role with Al Sadd, rather than return to Spain.

"The idea is to start as a coach in Qatar, where there is less pressure, to test myself and get some experience," Xavi told Spain's EFE agency in Tehran just hours before facing Persepolis.

"I think football has bid farewell to one of the best players in the world ... it was beautiful to work with a player with Xavi's caliber," Al Sadd's current head coach Jesualdo Ferreira said after the match.

Ferreira predicted Xavi ‘will be a great manager’.

Fellow Al Sadd midfielder Gabi also paid tribute to his captain and fellow Spaniard, calling him a ‘role model’.

Al Sadd had already qualified for the last 16 of the Asian tournament, although Xavi will not play on, and the Qatari side had hoped a victory on Monday would be an apt sendoff for its captain who has been with the club for four years.

But although the Spaniard produced some signature passes and saw a late free-kick sail agonizingly over the goal, it was Persepolis which made the most of its chances.

Early on, Xavi collected the ball and passed to Baghdad Bounedjah but the Algerian's lob was pushed away by Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

The Iranians got their first chance in the 16th minute and made it count with Mehdi Torabi setting off on a 30-yard run following a pass from Ahmad Noorollahi and scoring with a thunderous drive past Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb.

Persepolis made it 2-0 in the 67th minute with Torabi racing down the left flank and passing to Ali Alipour, who evaded Tarek Salman's attempted tackle before a powerful low shot beat al-Sheeb.

Xavi had a great chance to go out in style but his 81st minute free-kick just skimmed the top of the net and went behind for a goal-kick.

 

 

   
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