Former winners Al Sadd believe a second AFC Champions League title is possible after another penalty shootout success saw the Qatari side edge past Emiratis Al Wadha and into the group stages following a dramatic 4-4 draw.
The painful defeat capped a bad Tuesday night for United Arab Emirates clubs, with domestic league leaders Al Jazira losing 2-1 to Uzbeks Bunyodkor to also miss out on a group stage berth.
Al Sadd, winners in 2011 and also of the Asian Club Championship in 1989, initially appeared to be heading out after Mohammed Al Shehhi had put the home side 3-2 ahead in the 92nd minute.
A scuffle then broke out, leading to Damian Diaz and Adil Hermach being sent off for the hosts and Mohammed Kasola of Al Sadd before Khalfan Ibrahim snatched a dramatic equalizer in the eighth minute of stoppage time to force extra time.
Former AFC Player of the Year Khalfan completed his hat-trick in the first period of extra time but despite being numerically disadvantaged, Al Wahda grabbed an equaliser through Ismail Matar’s 108th minute free kick.
However, Hussain Fadhel’s effort was blocked by Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb in the ensuing shootout as the Qataris advanced 5-4 to take a place in Group C alongside Uzbeks Lokomotiv Tashkent, Foolad of Iran and Saudis Al Hilal.
“I’m extremely happy with the exciting win as we gave our best tonight and we had great determination to make a good comeback and win the match,” Al Sadd coach Lhoussaine Ammouta said.
“We were behind tonight but we came back stronger and we should have sealed the match before the penalty shootout.
“We want to have a good performance in the group stage and compete for the title.”
Al Sadd’s victory followed their 11-10 penalty shootout win over Bahrain’s Al Riffa in the previous qualifying round.
There was no room for a third Qatari side, however, as El Jaish suffered a narrow 1-0 away defeat to Iran’s Naft Tehran, who will play in Group B with Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan, Saudis Al Shabab and Emiratis Al-Ain.
Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia, runners-up in 2012, required a 85th minute penalty to force extra time at home to Al Qadsia before Mustafa Al-Bassas’s 115th minute effort saw off the Kuwaits 2-1.
They will play in Group D along with the UAE’s Al Ahli, Tractor Sazi of Iran and Nasaf Qarshi of Uzbekistan.
The eight groups of four teams get underway next week.