AFC Champions League 2018: Matchday One Review: West Zone - Al Ain held

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Asia's premier club competition saw some interesting matches in the West Zone as the group stage got underway...

The AFC Champions League 2018 got off to a brilliant start in the West Zone. Here is a look at what the games produced this week:

GROUP A:


Tractorsazi Tabriz 0-1 Al Ahli Saudi FC (Aseri 67')


Mohamed Aseri handed Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli FC a 1-0 victory over Iran's Tractorsazi Tabriz in the opening match of their AFC Champions League group. 

Al Ahli suffered an early blow when defender Mohammed Al Fatil had to be replaced with Brazilian midfielder Claudemir after the former picked up an injury. Though it was the Iranian side who dominated the exchanges, Al Ahli took the all important lead in the 67th minute. 

Aseri headed in Abdulfattah Asiri’s cross into the bottom-right corner to give them the lead. 

Mark Miligan kept the Saudi side's lead intact when he was forced into a goalline clearance by Sulejman Krpic and they held on to their lead from that point on and notched three vital points. 

Al Jazira 3-2 Al Gharafa (Romarinho 10', Al Hajeri 27', Al Hashmi 67' - Taremi 11', Sneijder 71') 


Al Jazira v Al Gharafa; AFC Champions League

UAE's Al Jazira beat a star-studded Al Gharafa side from Qatar 3-2 to register their first Champions League victory since 2014 on Monday. Brazilian striker Romarinho opened the scoring early on for the home side when his cross from the wings inadvertently found its way to the back of the net. 

However, Al Gharafa struck back immediately as Mehdi Taremi fired in expertly from inside the box. Moroccan playmaker Mbark Boussoufa then sent Ali Mabkhout Al Hajeri through on goal and he restored Al Jazira's lead in the 26th minute. 

Romarinho then nodded a ball to Ahmed Al Hashmi in the 67th minute and the latter went on to score a sensational half-volley from 40 yards out, to make it 3-1. Dutch star Wesley Sneijder then tapped in a rebound from Ahmed Alaeldin shot to make it 3-2 but ultimately the home side held on for a win. 

 

GROUP B: 


Al Duhail 3-1 Zob Ahan (Boudiaf 74', 76' Msakni 84' - Kiros 12') 


Al Duhail v Zobahan; AFC Champions League

Qatar's Al Duhail SC downed Iranian club Zob Ahan 3-1 in their opening Group B clash on Monday. Karim Boudiaf did the star turn for the home team with a second-half brace. 

It was the visitors who took the lead on the night, however. Brazilian striker Kiros put the visitors in front within 10 minutes by heading home from close-range after Morteza Tabrizi's effort had bounced back off the cross-bar. Zob Ahan went on to defend stoutly until the 74th minute when Boudiaf struck first. Youssef Msakni’s shot was spilled by goalkeeper Mazaheri on to Boudiaf's path who converted it. 

Two minutes later, the defensive midfielder scored a powerful header after Nam Tae-hee’s cross from the corner. Tae-hee turned provider again with five minutes to go as his cross was turned home by Msakni to seal the points for the home team. 


PFC Lokomotiv 5-0 Al Wahda (Nivaldo 25' Alibaev 53', 87' Sultan 55' (OG) Rashidov 59')


Uzbekistan's Lokomotiv Tashkent began their 2018 AFC Champions League campaign in style after a 5-0 win over Al Wahda of UAE on Monday. 

In what turned out to be a one-sided encounter, Lokomotiv took the lead in the 25th minute when Brazilian striker Nivaldo slotted home Sanjar Shaakhmedov's through ball into the box. After the second half, Lokomotiv turned on the charm by scoring three goals in six minutes. First, Ikromjon Alibaev caught the keeper off his line with a stunning strike from the halfway line. 

Two minutes later, defender Salem Sultan converted Shukrat Mukhammadiev's cross into his own net to make it 3-0 to Lokomotiv. Sardor Rashidov then made it 4-0 by drilling in a fierce shot at the near post before Alibaev grabbed his brace by heading in his second and Lokomotiv's fifth goal. 


GROUP C: 


Al Wasl 1-2 Al Sadd (Lima 26' - Boundjah 79', 90')


Al Wasl v Al Sadd; AFC Champions League

UAE's Al Wasl were downed at home by Qatar's Al Sadd on Tuesday in their AFC Champions League 2018 opener, thanks to a sensational second-half showing by striker Baghdad Bounedjah. 

After a slow start to the match, the hosts took the lead through Fabio de Lima in the 26th minute. The Brazilian forward pounced on an error from defender Abdelkarim Hassan and curled in a brilliant shot that beat the goalkeeper. 

In the second half, Al Sadd's perseverance paid off as substitute Bounedjah equalised with 11 minutes left on the clock. He scored with a shot on the turn after latching on to Xavi's through ball. He would go on to score the winner in the 90th minute by getting on the end of a cross by substitute Akram Afif and firing home, much to the delight of the Qatari side. 


Persepolis 3-0 FC Nasaf (Mensha 20' Alipour 66', 71')


Iran's Persepolis registered a dominant 3-0 win over FC Nasaf in their Group C opener on Tuesday. 

Persepolis, last year's semifinalists, took only 20 minutes to surge into the lead in a match they dominated. Nigerian forward Godwin Mensha headed home Vahid Amiri’s cross from the right flank which was enough to send Persepolis into the break with a lead. In the second half, striker Ali Alipour netted a brace to seal the result. 

He fired a fierce shot into the top corner from inside the box after latching on to Sadegh Moharrami's pass in the 66th minute. Five minutes later, he drove Mohammad Ansari's low square pass inside the box into the goal to ensure Persepolis' dominance in the match reflected in the scoreline. 

 

GROUP D:


Al Rayyan 2-2 Esteghlal (Hamdallah 18' Tabata 28' - Tabata 6' (OG) Ghorbani 88')


Al Rayyan's Spanish striker Rodrigo Tabata scored for both teams as Iran's Esteghlal's late goal meant the tie between the two sides finished 2-2 on Tuesday. 

Al Rayyan had a horror start to the game when Server Djeparov's pacey cross was turned into his own net by Rodrigo Tabata in the 6th minute. However, Tabata made amends by sending a brilliant free-kick straight to Abderrazzak Hamdallah who headed it home. 10 minutes later, Tabata turned the scoreline around by applying a first-time finish from inside the box to Hamdallah's cross. 

Just as it seemed like the home team would hold on to the lead, Esteghlal equalised with just two minutes remaining on the clock. Al Rayyan, who were down to 10-men after Tabata was sent off, did not deal with Omid Ebrahimi’s cross from the right wing and Ali Ghorbani headed home to rescue a point for the Iranians. 


Al Hilal 0-0 Al Ain 


Al Ain v Al Hilal; AFC Champions League

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The clash of the heavyweights in Group D turned out to be a damp squib as Al Hilal and Al Ain played out a goalless draw in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. 

Al Ain were the better team in the initial exchanges, with Swedish striker Marcus Berg forcing the Al Hilal goalkeeper into an early save. Meanwhile, for Al Hilal, Ezequiel Cerutti and Yasser Al Shahrani squandered chances themselves. 

Al Hilal were very close to breaking the deadlock in the 79th minute when Mohammed Al Burayk's free-kick struck the upright but it was not to be and the game ended goalless. 

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