Dubai: Brazilian Welliton Soares struck a hat-trick as Sharjah swamped Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and former champions Al Ain settled for goalless draws against Pakhtakor and Sepahan, respectively, in the penultimate group matches of the 2020 AFC Champions League.
Soares netted in the 49th, 57th and 61st minutes after Saif Juma had given the Arabian Gulf League champions the lead into first half injury period. Mohammad Abdul Basit, who came in place of Juma 10 minutes into the second half struck immediately for Sharjah while Caio Fernandes got his name on the scoresheet in the 68th minute to complete the domination over the club from Saudi Arabia.
The win moved the AGL champions into second place in Group C but tied on seven points with Persepolis, Iran, while Qatar’s Al Duhail are at the top of the standings with nine points.
Sharjah’s largest-ever win in the AFC Champions League means they can reach the Round of 16 for the first time in their history with a win against Persepolis in their last game, while Al Taawoun’s fate is now out of their hands. The Saudis need a win against Al Duhail and a draw between Sharjah and Persepolis to qualify.
Meanwhile, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai also have a chance to advance into the knockout stages following their goalless draw against Uzbekistan’s Pakhtokor. Heading into the competition with no points following identical 1-2 losses to Pakhtakor and Al Hilal in February, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai have done well in Doha picking up seven points from three matches so far.
The team from Al Ghusais secured full points, courtesy of 1-0 wins against Iranian debutants Shahr Khodro and then a goalless draw against Pakhtakor gives them the third position behind Al Hilal (11 points) and Pakhtakor (8).
Both teams will now have to wait till the final round of matches on Wednesday [September 23] to confirm either side’s qualification, with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai up against group leaders and already-qualified Al Hilal, while Pakhtakor face the already eliminated Shahr Khodro.
Former champions Al Ain picked up their second point of the competition when they played out a goalless draw against Sepahan, Iran. Al Ain are already out of the running from Group D having lost three of their matches so far. Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia and Al Sadd, Qatar have already qualified to the Round of 16, but still have a match in hand each on Thursday. Al Ain will take on Al Nassr, while Sepahan will be up against Al Sadd.
(Group A) Esteghlal, Iran 1 Al Shorta, Iraq 1
(Group B) Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia 0 Shahr Khodro, Iran 0; Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, UAE 0 Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan 0
(Group C) Persepolis, Iran 0 Al Duhail, Qatar 1; Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia 0 Sharjah 6
(Group D) Al Sadd, Qatar 1 Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia 1; Sepahan, Iran 0 Al Ain 0