Former Spain and Barcelona captain and legend Xavi missed a penalty kick yesterday as Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones got the better of the iconic midfielder in an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League play off contest.
Jones, who moved to United Arab Emirates-based club Al Jazira last month on loan from England Championship team Cardiff City, got on to the scoresheet too with a trademark header in a memorable result for the Arabian club against Qatar rivals, Al Saad SC.
Al Jazira won 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes of normal time and 30 minutes extra time.
The “Soca Warriors” captain and former World Cup 2006 player said it was “an honour” to share the field with the 36 year old Xavi, who lifted the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008 and 2012 trophies with Spain along with four-time UEFA Champions League titles and eight Spain La Liga crowns with Barcelona.
“It was an honour to come up against Xavi,” said Jones, via his press officer. “He’s been a fantastic player his entire career and an immaculate professional.
“But for the game, all of that had to be forgotten. My team had to concentrate on the bigger picture, which was winning to advance to the next stage of the competition.”
Jones will now get his first taste of the AFC Champions League. Wired868 cannot confirm whether he is the first Trinidadian player to get to the group stage.
Compatriots Hughtun Hector and Daneil Cyrus both got only as far as the Champions League qualifying rounds in 2014 with Vietnam club, Ha Noi T&T.
Al Jazira coach Henk Ten Cate, a Dutchman who was dubbed “The Volcano” during a stint as Chelsea assistant coach, described yesterday’s result as an advertisement for the game in the United Arab Emirates.
“I think it’s an advertisement for football in the UAE, this game,” said Ten Cate. “I first want to congratulate my players—they did an amazing job.
“They beat a really good team and achieved something special, I think. The players are very happy in the dressing room; they put lemonade and water on my head.”
Al Jazira rode their luck at times in an entertaining clash.
Al Saad struck first through striker Hamza Senhadji but Jones equalised with a downward header off a set piece, just before the halftime interval, and Ali Mabhhout put Al Jazira ahead with a brilliant free kick in the 66th minute.
Senhadji got a second item to pull Al Saad level and the Qatari outfit should have clinched the result, only for midfielder Khalfan Ibrahim to miss a penalty.
It forced both teams into a penalty shootout to decide the lone Champions League place at stake. And Xavi skied his effort from the spot as Al Jazira won 5-4.
“For any player, it’s an honour to play in competitions of the highest level for club and country,” said Jones. “The Arabian Gulf League is no different, so we went out against Al Saad to come back with nothing but a win.
“We knew that Xavi is an exceptional player, but he wasn’t playing on his own—he’s a part of a team. Attention had to go across the board, and the boys went out there with a lot of heart…
“As a team, we just need to focus on our strengths and play the game we know we can play, and the results will take care of themselves.”
Jones missed Trinidad and Tobago’s Copa America 2006 play off against Haiti last month, which the Warriors lost 1-0. However, he is expected to be selected for upcoming Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against St Vincent and the Grenadines on March 25 and 29.