Brazilian defender Ozeia di Paula went from hero to zero as Al-Riffa succumbed to the misery of penalty shootouts after a resilient defensive display away to Qatari powerhouse Al-Sadd in the AFC Champions League preliminary round.
The former Al-Hilal defender led by example and put in tackle after the other throughout a 120 minutes as the Bahraini champions stood their ground in the face of a relentless Qatari attacks. But as penalty shootouts got underway, Ozeia was left to rue his bad luck not once, but twice as he watched Al-Sadd goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb save his two shots from the spot in a dramatic series of shootouts that saw the whole 22 players try their luck with only Ibrahim Majid missing for the hosts meaning Ozeia’s second missed penalty handed a hard worked victory to the Qatari side who now progress to a one legged play-off in Abu Dhabi against UAE side Al-Wahda next Tuesday.
The narrative of the game was typical of a knock-out encounter with the home team massive favourites to progress. Al-Sadd started slowly and cautiously not to be caught on the counter while Al-Riffa were happy to concede possession and put 10 men behind the ball. The Qataris gradually moved into second gear with Hassan Al-Haydous shooting into the arms of Riffa goalkeeper Sayed Shubbar from point-blank inside the first 15 minutes. But with Riffa sitting deep, the home team had to resort to shooting from distance, Shubbar heroics denying both Al-Haydous and Ibrahim Majid. The visitors’ only real opportunity in the first half came when Hussein Salman found Sayed Dhiya inside the Al-Sadd penalty box but the latter only side-netting.
In the second half, Al-Sadd switched into a more attacking 4-4-2 formation brining in Nadir Belhadj on the left wing and moving Al-Haydous further forward pulling out the largely inefficient Yousif Ahmed. The hosts piled the pressure as Khalfan Ibrahim missed one-on-one and the same man Shubbar again denied Al-Haydous from a free-kick. De Paula and co made multiple blocks taking Al-Sadd into extra time when even Khalfan’s ball at the death just hit the post announcing both sides adjourned to penalty shootouts.
The thriller was just about to begin as Riffa’s defensive hero De Paula shot to the right of Al-Sheeb who pushed it wide. In turn, Al-Sadd’s Majid executed a Sergio Ramos-esque penalty kick into the stands to restore parity at 4-4 with all 5 shots taken. Teams went into sudden death as Qatari international defender Mohammed Kasola stepped in confidently and scored a lovely Panenka to which Riffa midfielder Sayed Dhiya responded with an equally impressive Panenka of his own. Both sides continued to score their shots with an impressive composure till that man De Paula popped up again with Al-Sadd leading 11-10. The Brazilian needed to net to keep his team in the game and he stepped up to face Al-Sheeb from the spot once again, it was game theory stuff as he attempted a repeat of his first shot but the Qatari keeper showed impressive mental strength and flexibility to parry De Paula’s shot away and ensure Al-Sadd avoided an embarrassing early exit from the tournament they won merely 4 years ago.
74’ Nadir Belhadj for Yousif Ahmed 60’ Abdullah Dheeb for Sayed Karimi
77’ Rashid Al-Houti for Kamil Al-Aswad
96’ Saad Al-Amer for Jhon Obregon
Watch: All 24 penalty shootouts in just over 2 minutes, including two beautiful Panenkas.