Group stages of the AFC Champions League 2017 came to an end in Groups C & D in the West Zone on Monday. Let's take a look at what transpired on the continent in the four games:-
AL AIN 3-0 BUNYODKOR [Shamrani 34' Abdulrahman 77' Diaky 90+1']
Al Ain advanced to the AFC Champions League knockout stages as Group C winner by defeating Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor 3-0 on Monday at home.
Though Al Ain had already qualified from the group, they started the game on the front foot and surged into the lead in the 34th minute. Omar Abdulrahman played in Nasser Al Shamrani who sent a low finish into the bottom corner. With the game well and truly under their control, Al Ain doubled their lead in the 77th minute. Omar Abdulrahman found the Bunyodkor net with a brilliant free-kick before Ibrahim Diaky headed home their third from an Abdulrahman corner late on.
Al Ain finished top of the group with that win while Bunyodkor finished their campaign with just one win from six games.
AL AHLI 2-0 ZOB AHAN [Asiri 63' Kurdi 84']
Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli booked their spot in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over Iran's Zob Ahan at home on Monday. A draw was enough for the Saudi side but they went on to finish the job with a victory.
The first half was goalless though both teams had chances to score but the second produced two for the home side. The opening goal came in the 63rd minute when Abdulfattah Asiri found some space from 20 yards out and unleashed a venomous strike that nestled in the bottom corner. As Zob Ahan pushed men forward in search of goals, Al Ahli capitalised on the spaces left behind and doubled their lead after a blistering counter in the 84th minute. Amiri Kurdi only had to time his run and slide a finish home as Al Ahli joined Al Ain in progressing from Group C.
Zob Ahan, with only seven points from six games, saw their campaign end on a poor note.
PERSEPOLIS 4-2 AL WAHDA [Rafiei 17' Taremi 20', 54', 70' - Akberi 33' Tagliabue 51']
Iran's Persepolis ensured a spot for themselves in the knockout stages with a 4-2 home win over Al Wahda, thanks to a splendid hattrick from Mehdi Taremi. Persepolis needed to win on Monday and hope Al Rayyan lost their game, which is exactly what happened.
At Tehran, Persepolis got off to a strong but slightly fortunate start. Al Wahda goalkeeper made a hash of a clearance and the ball fell straight to Soroush Rafiei who side-stepped the 'keeper and slotted the ball home. Their star striker Mehdi Taremi then got into the act by bundling a finish home after Vahid Amiri played a square ball for him. Though Ahmed Al Akberi pulled a goal back for Al Wahda with a stunner from 25 yards, Persepolis still maintained their supremacy. Post the half-time break, however, Sebastian Tagliabue headed a cross in at the back post to level the scores.
But Mehdi Taremi stepped up immediately to restore Persepolis' advantage with a neat finish after being sent clear on goal. The lanky striker went on to complete his hat-trick in the 70th minute by turning in Ali Alpour's cross from the left. That goal killed the game off and ensured Persepolis lived to fight another day in the tournament.
AL RAYYAN 3-4 AL HILAL [Soria 55' Tabata 59' Garcia 82' - Milesi 40', 73' Kharbin 66', 84']
Al Rayyan's hopes of qualifying from Group D were smashed by a thrilling 4-3 win away for already-qualified Al Hilal who ensured they won the group with the win.
Al Rayyan had to equal the result of Persepolis to qualify but were pegged back by Nicolas Milesi who opened the scoring in the 40th minute after latching on to a loose ball following a save from the Al Rayyan goalkeeper. However, the Qatari side turned the tables in the second half with quick goals from Sebastian Soria and Rodrigo Tabata before the hour mark and looked set for a win. While Soria's strike was a good one, Tabata's goal was breathtaking as his left-footer from the very edge of the penalty box curled into the top corner.
Omar Kharbin levelled the scores by turning in a rebound after Nicolas Milesi's header was parried by the goalkeeper. Nicolas Milesi then gave Al Hilal the lead in the 73rd minute by finding the top corner expertly from Kharbin's pull back just outside the area. Al Rayyan were not done though. Sergio Garcia pulled them level with a splendid low strike from 20 yards out but their joy was shortlived. Omar Kharbin turned home a stray header from a corner two minutes later to give Al Hilal a thrilling win on the night.