Dubai: The UAE will have its full quota of four teams in the main rounds of the 2013 AFC Champions League after both Al Nasr and Al Shabab registered contrasting victories in the two play-offs held on Saturday.
The visiting Al Shabab side played with their backs against the wall under near freezing conditions of nearly six degrees in Iran to battle to a 1-1 draw before wrapping up a 5-4 tie-breaker win against Sebaye Qom, while Al Nasr rode on a debatable last-minute penalty to scramble their way to a 3-2 triumph at home against Uzbekistan’s FC Lokomotiv.
In the main round competition that kicks off at the end of the month, Al Nasr will start in Group C alongside Sepahan of Iran, Al Gharafa of Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.
Al Shabab will be in Group B alongside Lekhwiya of Qatar, Al Ettifaq of Saudi Arabia and Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan in the main competition.
The UAE already have league champions Al Ain and runners-up Al Jazira in the main draw for the 2013 edition of this continental competition, but after Saturday’s one-off matches they have their full quota of four sides when the main rounds kick off at the end of this month.
Al Nasr’s Japanese striker Morimoto Takayuki opened the scoring on the night in the 30th minute as he beat the off-side trap after receiving a long ball from skipper Leo Lima and slammed home a first time left-footed volley in the far corner.
The visitors went all out for the equalizer with the active Ivan Nagaev coming close on a couple of occasions. But it was Al Nasr skipper Lima who stood tall covering the front of the defence as the home side went in for the half-time break with their narrow lead.
Lokomotiv regrouped well in the second half and started pressing early for the equalizer, but some smart defending denied them. However, they did find the equalizer in the 71st minute when substitute Viktor Karpenko found his rasping drive evade the reach of Ahmad Shambih’s hands.
Five minutes later, Akmal Holmatov curled a fine free kick to hand FC Lokomotiv the lead only to see UAE national team star Habib Al Fardan restore parity in the 78th minute when he nudged in a header off a free kick into the far corner.
As the two teams readied for the additional extra time, Humaid Ahmad tripped inside the area as defender Jabbarov narrowed in on him on the left flank.
Japanese referee Toma Maasaki, who was at the edge of the box, pointed to the dreaded spot even as the Uzbeks contested the decision. Lima duly converted the penalty by sending goalkeeper Pavel Bugalo the wrong way to send the home fans in a tizzy.