Dubai: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and former champions Al Ain were the only two UAE teams picking up points after their opening round matches at the 2020 AFC Champions League being held in Doha, Qatar.
Abu Dhabi club Al Wahda had pulled out of Group A of the competition after a few of their staff had tested positive for Coronavirus just before leaving for the Qatari capital last week. However, it was AGL runners-up Shabab Al Ahli making amends with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Irani side Shahr Khodro in Group B.
Young midfielder Hareb Abdullah Suhail Al Maazmi scored the only goal of the match in the 75th minute as the team from Al Ghusais got their first three points of their campaign this season. Their next match will be the return fixture at the same venue on Thursday (September 17).
But it was Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal taking full control of Group B with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan side Pakhtakor to maintain a clean record of nine points after three matches. The Uzbeks are in second with six points, Shabab Al Ahli climbed one spot into third with three points, while the Iranians are yet to open their account after three matches.
In Group C, Al Duhail scored two goals within 10 minutes through Al Moez Ali and Ranim Rezaeian of Iran as the hosts took maximum points against AGL champions Sharjah. Back in the side after a lengthy injury break, Brazilian Igor Coronado pulled one back after converting from the penalty spot for Sharjah, but that was all they could achieve on the night.
Shoza Khalilzadeh struck seven minutes from the end to help Persepolis of Iran to a 1-0 win over a strong Al Taawoun in the second Group B match late on Tuesday. The Qataris are now equal on six points each with the team from Saudi Arabia. Persepolis is in third with four points while Sharjah languish at the bottom of the group with just one point and the return legs fixed for Friday (September 18).
Group D witnessed two contrasting encounters on Tuesday, with former champions Al Ain fighting back to win their first point of the competition with a 3-3 draw against Al Sadd, Qatar, while Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr scored on either side of half-time for a comfortable 2-0 win against Sepahan, Iran.
Togo professional Kodjo Fodo Laba opened the scoring for Al Ain the fifth minute only to see Akram Afif levelling in the 35th minute. Kazakh international Bauyrzhan Islamkhan then gave Al Ain the lead a second time in the 38th minute but former Arsenal player Santi Cazorla scored his first goal for his new club in the 55th minute and make it 2-2.
Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah then handed the lead to the hosts on the hour, but the 2003 AFC Champions League winners had Boualem Khoukhi coming to their aid when the Algeria-born naturalised Qatari diverted into his own goal - handing over the first point to the UAE team.
Al Nassr continue to lead Group D with seven points, Al Sadd is in second with five and Sepahan in third with three points and Al Ain at the bottom with a point. The return legs will be played at the same venue on Friday.
(Group A) Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia 1 Al Shorta, Iraq 0; Esteghlal, Iran vs Al Wahda, UAE – cancelled.
(Group B) Shabab Al Ahli, Dubai 1 Shahr Khodro, Iran 0; Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia 2 Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan 1.
(Group C) Al Duhail, Qatar 2 Sharjah, UAE 1; Persepolis, Iran 1 Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia 0.
(Group D) Al Ain, UAE 3 Al Sadd, Qatar 3; Sepahan, Iran 0 Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia 2.