A week after a mass brawl between Al Sadd and Suwon Bluewings in the first leg of their Asian Champions League semifinal, the teams from Qatar and South Korea meet in Doha on Wednesday for an eagerly awaited second leg.
Al Sadd won the match 2-0 in South Korea last week, with the second goal instigating a rolling series of violent confrontations that made headlines around the world.
Suwon regarded the goal as unsportsmanlike. The Korean team had put the ball out of play to stop the game and allow treatment for an injured player. The game’s etiquette dictates that the opposing team immediately returns the ball after the throw-in, but instead Kader Keita passed to Mamadou Niang to score.
Both players were subsequently red carded; Keita for fighting in the melee that followed and Niang for a second yellow. Suwon’s Stevica Ristic was also sent off for fighting as a Suwon fan entered the field to square up to the Al Sadd goalkeeper.
Niang and Keita will miss the second leg, plus midfielder Mesaad Al Hamad who had his nose broken during the fighting.
Suwon will be without experienced striker Ristic; a costly absence as he has the experience of helping Pohang Steelers win the Champions League in 2009 and has scored eight goals in 12 games since crossing to the Bluewings.
“We have put what happened last week behind us,” Suwon coach Yoon Sung-hyo said. “In the quarterfinal we tied at home and then won away and that experience of winning away when we need to will help us.”
In the absence of Ristic, Yoon will turn to Ha Tae-gyun, the second highest goalscorer in the competition this season despite struggling to hold down a regular starting place.
“We will miss Ristic but Ha has been more dangerous in Asia than he has at home,” said Yoon. “We know we have to score and we have the firepower to do so.”
Al Sadd’s road to the brink of the final was already controversial even before events at Suwon’s World Cup Stadium.