Dubai: Two of the three teams from the UAE kept alive their hopes of advancing at the AFC Champions League at the end of their fourth round of matches in Doha.
Arabian Gulf League (AGL) champions Sharjah carved out a stunning 4-2 win over Qatar’s Al Duhail in Group C after Shabab Al Ahli Dubai had staged a repeated 1-0 win over Shahr Khodro, Iran in their Group B encounter.
Sharjah fought back for a superb 4-2 win against Al Duhail to keep their hopes alive for the next stages of the competition. Losing to the same team 2-1 last Tuesday, Sharjah rebounded in true fashion despite being in arrears through a 12th minute goal from Almoez Ali.
Five minutes later, Khalid Bawazir equalised as the Sharjah midfielder’s thunderous try flew straight through the hands of goalkeeper Khalifa Aboubacar. The match then took an important turn on the hour mark after Moroccan defender Medhi Benatia was given a straight red card for an elbow on Sharjah’s Brazilian playmaker, Igor Coronado.
Coronado beat the goalkeeper with a curled effort off the resultant free-kick, but the ball bounced off the upright and fell to midfielder Majed Surour whose diving header found the back of the net to hand the lead to Sharjah. But 10-man Al Duhail restored parity again in the 70th minute and Al Duhail captain Almoez Ali found the net to make it 2-2.
Five minutes later, Sharjah were awarded a penalty after Mohammad Musa appended Welliton Soares inside the box, and Brazilian Coronado coolly converted to restore the lead for Sharjah. Abdul Aziz Al Anbari’s men then cemented their victory in added time as former Kashima Antlers and Al Ain winger Caio exchanged passes with Coronado to drill home an effort from a tight angle.
The result means Sharjah get their first win in the AFC Champions League since 2004, moving up to four points, keeping them in the competition, while Al Duhail remain on six points boxed between Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia (7 points) and Persepolis, Iran (6 points).
Meanwhile, entering the competition with no points after their opening two matches held at the beginning of the year, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai showed their intent with their maximum six points from two wins against their Iranian opponents.
Last week, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai had to bank on a Hareb Abdullah Suhail Al Maazmi goal. And on Thursday, the Dubai side bagged full points after substitute Pedro Conde scored a late goal and take their tally to six points after four matches.
In the second match, Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal played out a goalless draw to occupy the top two spots in Group B.
The result sees debutants Shahr Khodro eliminated from the AFC Champions League having yet to get a point or score a goal, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai now sit in third place with six points. Al Hilal are at the top with 10 points, while the Uzbeks are in second with seven points with another two matches to go in the preliminary round.
In Group D action, Al Ain were eliminated from the competition after being handed a 4-0 thrashing by home team Al Sadd who confirmed qualification to the Round of 16. The result left Al Ain on one point from four games, with no mathematical chance of catching up with second place, while Al Sadd temporarily regained top spot in Group D while booking their ticket to the next round.
Group A: Al Shorta 2-1 Al Ahli (Saudi Arabia)
Group B: Shahr Khodro 0-1 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Pakhtakor 0-0 Al Hilal
Group C: Sharjah 4-2 Al Duhail; Al Taawoun 0-1 Persepolis
Group D: Al Sadd 4-0 Al Ain, Al Nassr2-0 Sepahan