The first round of matches in Group A and B of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League 2017 took place on Monday and we saw several interesting results.
None of the matches ended in a draw while a total of eight goals were scored in four matches. UAE’s Al Ahli and Saudi Arabian team Al Taawoun started their campaigns well in Group A while Qatar’s Lekhwiya SC and Iran’s Esteghlal Khouzestan laid down the early markers in Group B.
Let’s take a peek at the action which unfolded in Asia’s premier club competition on Monday.
Al Ahli (UAE) 2-1 Esteghlal FC (IRA) [Makhete Diop 45+1', 90' - Omid Ebrahimi 74']
The first game of the ACL 2017 ended in an agonising defeat for Iranian outfit Esteghlal FC against their fancied Emirati opponents after Senegalese striker Makhete Diop came up with an injury time winner for the UAE Pro-League champions.
After cancelling each other out for much of the first half at the Rashid stadium in Dubai, Makhete Diop gave Al Ahli the lead in first-half added time with a close-range finish after a corner was not cleared properly. But the Iranian side came out stronger in the second half and looked to have earned themselves a point in the 74th minute when a cross into the box was expertly volleyed home by Omid Ebrahimi.
But, heartbreak awaited them when that man Diop rose the highest to nod in a cross from Brazilian midfielder Everton Ribeiro, who was once linked with Manchester United, in second half injury time. The dramatic win takes them to the top of Group A for the time being.
Al Taawoun (KSA) 1-0 PFC Lokomotiv (UZB) [Al Absi 68']
Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun marked their first ever AFC Champions League appearance with a memorable win over Uzbek side PFC Lokomotiv that took them to second on Group A.
At the King Abdullah stadium in Buraidah, Al Taawoun started the game without any sign of nerves and should have taken a deserved lead in the first half itself. But, Alassane N’Diaye’s early goal was ruled out for offside. Meanwhile, Abdulrahman Al Barakah saw an effort come crashing back off the post but the Saudi side got their just rewards in the 68th minute.
Romanian Lucian Sanmartean’s corner was met by defender Al Absi at the back post and he headed home without any further ado to seal a memorable win for Al Taawoun.
Lekhwiya SC (QAT) 3-0 Al Jazira (UAE) [El Arabi 11', 90' Msakni 80']
Former SM Caen and Granada striker Youssef El Arabi did the star turn for Qatar outfit Lekhwiya SC as they started their Group B campaign with a resounding 3-0 win over UAE’s Al Jazira at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa stadium in Doha.
El Arabi has been in fine goalscoring form of late and it was no surprise when the Moroccan headed in Youssef Msakni’s cross from close range in the 11th minute. Lekhwiya remained the dominant side but had to wait till the 80th minute to add to their goals tally when Msakni’s left-footed effort from inside the box could not be kept out by Al Jazira’s goalkeeper.
There was still time for Youssef El Arabi to bag his brace in injury time when he tapped in Ali Afif’s square pass into the box to add some gloss to the win. While it took Lekhwiya to the top of Group B, Al Jazira are now winless in this competition for eight games.
Esteghlal Khouzestan (IRA) 1-0 Al Fateh (KSA) [Abolfazl Alaii 80']
At the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat, Esteghlal Khouzestan edged Saudi Arabian outfit Al Faten 1-0, thanks to a goal from Abolfazl Alaii.
The Iranian champions Esteghlal Khouzestan were making their first ever AFC Champions League appearance but were on top of Al Fateh for most of the tie. But they were made to wait until the 80th minute to grab the winner when Alaii rose highest to head home Peyman Shirzadi’s inswinging corner at the back post.
While the result sealed a landmark win for the Iranian side, Al Fateh search for a first win in the competition drags on.