AFC Champions League roundup: Al Hilal and Al Ain seal qualification to the knockout stages

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One team each from Group C and D have made it to the knockout stages with the final matchday set to determine the second teams....

Groups C and D saw matchday five action on Monday in the AFC Champions League 2017 and with it several surprising results as well. Here is a recap of all the action from Monday: 

GROUP C: 


BUNYODKOR 2-0 AL AHLI (KSA) [Komilov 8' Shomurodov 54']


Bunyodkor finally won a game in the AFC Champions League with a 2-0 result over Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli, marking the end of an 18-game winless streak in the tournament, on Monday. Though Bunyodkor were already eliminated, the result served to complicate Al Ahli's position with respect to progressing from the group. 

The Uzbek team flew out of the blocks and had the lead in the eighth minute when defender Akram Komilov headed home from a corner. Though Al Ahli did create opportunities to score an equaliser after that, it was Bunyodkor who enjoyed the better of the openings. Unsurprisingly, they doubled their advantage in the 54th minute through Eldor Shomurodov. 

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Bunyodkor easily held on to clinch the game and frustrate Al Ahli who could have progressed to the next round had they won here. They are now second in the group with eight points and need to avoid defeat against third-placed Zob Ahan on matchday six. 


ZOB AHAN 0-3 AL AIN [Asprilla 25' O Abdulrahman 60' M Abdulrahman 81']


Zob Ahan vs Al Ain; Omar Abdulrahman

UAE-based Al Ain have now guaranteed themselves progress to the knockout stages with a 3-0 away win over Iran's Zob Ahan, which means they cannot now finish below the top-two in Group C. 

Al Ain stormed into the lead in the 25th minute after good work from Caio whose cutback from the byline was met by Danilo Asprilla who saw his effort take a deflection and fool the goalkeeper before nestling in the net. Zob Ahan, though, had a chance to equalise when a penalty was awarded at the stroke of half-time for a handball inside the box. However, Jerry Bengtson's tame effort was straight at the goalkeeper. 

Al Ain made them pay for the miss by making it 2-0 at the hour mark with star midfielder Omar Abdulrahman embarking on a sparkling run, dribbling past a couple of defenders and finding the far bottom corner with aplomb. Mohammad Abdulrahman made it 3-0 in the 81st minute with a smart strike from inside the area as Al Ain celebrated their qualification in style. 

The win leaves Al Ain top of the table with nine points while Zob Ahan are third on seven points. 

 

GROUP D: 


AL HILAL 0-0 PERSEPOLIS 


Al Hilal vs Persepolis

Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal also secured their spot in the AFC Champions League knockout stages with a goalless draw against Iran's Persepolis that ensured they will not finish below the top-two spots in Group D. 

Al Hilal were certainly the better side in the first-half with the Saudi Arabians threatening the Persepolis defence on multiple occasions, especially down the right wing, but that killer instinct went missing as goals eluded both teams. The Iranian team improved a bit after the break and went close on multiple occasions, again the abysmal finishing letting them down. 

The point moves Al Hilal to top of Group D with nine from five games while Persepolis remain in third place in the group with six points with their hopes of a place in the Round of 16 growing increasingly slim after they failed to score for the second game in a row.


AL WAHDA 5-1 AL RAYYAN [Akberi 33' Tagliabue 43', 72' Sultan 52' Ibrahim 87' - Garcia 21']


Al Wahda vs Al Rayyan

Qatar's Al Rayyan wasted a glorious opportunity to seal progression to the next round after they were annihilated 5-1 by Al Wahda, who are bottom of the Group but have now notched their first win of the tournament. 

Al Rayyan looked they will win the game and progress to the next round when Sergio Garcia fired them into the lead with a sensational strike from 20 yards out in the 21st minute. But what awaited them was a rude awakening. Al Wahda were level 12 minutes later when Jorge Valdivia’s clever through ball picked out Ahmed al Akberi who beat Al Rayyan goalkeeper Omar Barry with a deft shot from close range. Al Wahda would then take the lead in the 43rd minute when Balazs Dzsudzsak's powerful strike from inside the area deflected in off Sebastian Tagliabue. 

Al Rayyan came unstuck after the break as Salem Sultan turned home a Dzsudzsak free-kick seven minutes after the restart. Tagliabue then bagged his brace with an imperious strike from a tight angle which caught out Omar Barry. The humiliation was completed in the 87th minute when Khalil Ibrahim found the back of the net with a precise effort from the inside the area. 

Despite the loss, Al Rayyan can qualify for the next stage with a win over Al Hilal on matchday six while Al Wahda's qualification hopes are also up now. 

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