Gomis shines as Al Hilal drub Xavi's Al Sadd

Doha (AFP) –


Bafetimbi Gomis starred as Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal took a giant step towards the AFC Champions League final with a 4-1 drubbing of Qatari giants Al Sadd, coached by Xavi, in the first leg of their semi-final clash in Doha on Tuesday.

Gomis went from villain to hero by equalising for Al Hilal after having helped Al Sadd go ahead in the 14th minute with an own goal, while Ali al-Bulayhi and Mohamed al-Shalhoub also netted for the visitors at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium

Al Sadd's Salem al-Hajiri also scored an own goal to help boost the visitors' score before the second leg clash in Riyadh on October 22.

Al Sadd and Al Hilal have a storied history in the West Asian region, both teams having won the Champions League on two occasions.

But Al Hilal had won only once before in their nine away encounters against Al Sadd, a fact that must have boosted Xavi and his men's confidence ahead of the match.

On Tuesday, however, the home side failed to make their chances count, and to make matters worse for them Abdelkarim Hassan was sent off in the 35th minute ? for a foul and then for arguing with the referee.

Needless to say the exit of the defender ? who was named Asian Player of the Year in 2018 ? was a big blow for Xavi's side as they struggled to contain the Al Hilal forwards, of whom Gomis was a constant threat.

Al Sadd were more enterprising in the early stages with Akram Afif and Hassan al-Haydos excelling up front and creating quite a few chances.

Afif elicited a fine save from goalkeeper Abdulla al-Mayouf and later found his shot from close hit the upright much to the disappointment of the near-capacity crowd.

But luck shone on the hosts in the 14th minute when al-Haydos cut in from the right off a corner and shot across the goalmouth, only for Gomis to attempt a clearance with the ball ending up in the Al Hilal net.

Gomis, however, made amends in the 33rd minute with a simple finish after a cross from Sebastian Giovinco following a defensive lapse involving Tarek Salman and Boualem Khoukhi.

Just before the first half ended, Al Sadd conceded another goal with al-Bulyahi heading home from close range after the ball was nodded on to him off a corner by Giovinco.

Gomis was also involved in Al Hilal's third goal when under pressure from him al-Hajri was forced to make contact with the ball inside the six yard box and sent it into his own net as Al Hilal went 3-1 up in the 60th minute.

Al Hilal completed the rout in the 67th minute when al-Shalhoub received Mohamed Kanno's pass and drilled it into the bottom of the net.