Tehran: The effects of a long season caught up with Qatar Stars League champions Al Sadd as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Persepolis in their final 2019 AFC Champions League Group D match on Monday.
The defeat, with Mahdi Torabi and Ali Alipour scoring for 2018 finalists Persepolis, came just four days after Al Sadd had lost the Qatar Amir Cup final to Al Duhail.
It was not the farewell Al Sadd wanted to give retiring Spanish legend Xavi but forward Akram Afif admitted that Al Sadd had not been at their best in both matches.
"I would like to congratulate the Persepolis fans but at the same time, I must say it has been tough for our fans.
"This match was difficult for us as we are in the fasting month and it has been a very long season for us," said Afif, who played an integral role in Qatar winning the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 title in February.
He was also equally crucial in Al Sadd winning the Qatar Stars League title for the first time since the 2012-13 season but the Doha-based club have shown signs of fatigue over the last few weeks.
FT: Persepolis FC 🇮🇷 2-0 🇶🇦 Al Sadd
Hosts end their campaign on a high after scoring goals on either side of the half with Mehdi Torabi playing a crucial role tonight. Al Sadd had already qualified to the R16 prior to MD6.
#ACL2019 #PERvSDD pic.twitter.com/EhmqwClJIF
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) May 20, 2019
"We started this season in August 2018, and we still have one month to go before the season ends.
"Some people think that the season is over for us, but it is not, as those with the Qatar national team still have one month to play, as we will compete in the Copa America next month."
Afif, however, said he wasn't too worried about Al Sadd's recent form.
"What is important for us is that we qualified for the AFC Champions League Round of 16 and we are confident of doing well in the knockout stage."
Losing to Persepolis didn't cost Al Sadd dearly as they still emerged group winners but what it did was set up a mouth-watering Round of 16 meeting with domestic rivals Al Duhail for which Afif is sure Al Sadd will be back at their very best.