AFC: Al-Sadd and Al Ain reach Champions League
The qualifying play-offs for the 2011 AFC Champions League have been completed this weekend and for Qatar’s Al-Sadd and Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates it has been a great weekend as they secured the final two berths in this year’s tournament.
In the West section Al-Sadd, who easily disposed of Syrian side Al-Ittihad with a 5-1 scoreline in the first play-off round, had to overcome the challenge of Indian champions Dempo SC in order to reach the group stages. This they did as strikes from Abdul Kader Keïta and Leandro secured a 2-0 win for the Doha-based side who will participate in Group B of this season’s Champions League against the likes of Esteghlal Tehran, Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr and Uzbek champions Bunyodkor FC.
In the East section Indonesian champions Sriwijaya had already got past the challenge of Thailand’s Muangthong United in the first qualifying play-off, albeit after a penalty shoot-out, but had it tough against Al Ain who swept aside their opponents with relative ease. Mohammed Haddaf gave Al-Ain the lead after quarter of an hour with Elias doubling their advantage on the stroke of half-time. Omar Abdulrahman made it 3-0 just six minutes after the break before Elias scored his second to complete the scoring sixty seconds later. Al-Ain have a difficult draw in Group F where they’ll face Nagoya Grampus Eight and Seoul FC, champions of Japan and South Korea respectively, as well as Chinese qualifiers Ghangzhou Greentown.
All of the losing teams in the play-offs have the consolation of a place in the AFC Cup, Asian football’s second-tier competition.