JEONJU, South Korea -- Al Sadd completed an unexpected AFC Champions League title triumph when they overcame all obstacles to beat hosts and favorites Jeonbuk Motors 4-2 on penalties following an enthralling 2-2 extra-time draw on Nov. 5.
Obliged to travel across Asia to play the final away from home and under pressure throughout the contest, the Qatari side also overcame the heartbreak of conceding a 92nd-minute equalizer which forced extra time to prevail in a shootout.
Al Sadd goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr, whose was brilliant one minute and woeful the next, saved two penalties in the shootout to allow Nadir Belhadj to score the winning kick and seal the $1.5-million first prize and a place at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan next month.
"He played fantastic today but believe me, it was not the only game that he was fantastic in this competition," Al Sadd coach Jorge Fossati told reporters of his goalkeeper.
"Today he had a big game, the Jeonbuk players did not miss the penalties, he saved them. It is different."
Al Sadd were under pressure throughout the final at Jeonbuk's World Cup stadium but defended bravely and took two of their few chances to seal victory at the end of a campaign that began in the qualifiers in February.
Heavy favorites Jeonbuk, roared on by a passionate 41,805 home crowd, looked stronger at the start and deservedly took the lead through Brazilian playmaker Eninho in the 19th minute.
Eninho was brought down on the edge of the area by Wesam Rizik but picked himself up to fire a sharp, curling, right-foot free kick into the corner of the net past a motionless Saqr.
The Koreans failed to build on their early lead and the Qataris went level 10 minutes later thanks to an own goal by defender Sim Woo-yeon when he flicked a header past his goalkeeper Kim Min-sik after a cross from Kader Keita.
Jeonbuk took control of the game as Al Sadd sank back, happy to defend as the Koreans wasted a number of chances. They were punished when Keita scored a brilliant counter-attack goal for the visitors in the 61st minute.
Belhadj broke down the left and fed Ibrahim Khalfan whose cross was brilliantly controlled by Ivorian Keita who then managed to fire the bouncing ball low into the corner of Kim's goal.
The goal looked set to be the winner as Jeonbuk squandered more chances while Saqr pulled off some excellent saves before making an error in missing a clearance from Eninho's corner to allow Jeonbuk substitute Lee Seung-hyun to head in a 92nd-minute equaliser and take the final into extra time.
The home side dominated the extra periods which were played out almost entirely in the Al Sadd half but Saqr twice denied Jeonbuk striker Jeong Shung-hoon.
"I really was very worried especially when it went to extra time because, as you can understand, our physical condition to play this game was not the same as normal. When you fly 10 hours two days ago, you need to adapt," Fossati said.
Al Sadd substitute Ali Afif was sent off in the final minute of extra time for a second yellow card for bringing down Choi Chul-soon but it did not prove decisive as Saqr excelled in the shootout.
Lifting the trophy seemed an unlikely proposition when the Qataris lost both legs of their quarterfinal to Zob Ahan but they advanced after the Iranians were penalised with a 3-0 defeat for fielding an ineligible player.
Al Sadd then overcame an ugly brawl in the first leg of their semi-final win over Suwon Bluewings to become the first Qatari winners of the revamped tournament, after Korea provided the last two winners.
"I feel tonight's defeat came from so many chances that we failed to score," Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee told reporters. "It is very frustrating to lose in such a manner."
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