Players of Al Duhail and Al Ain in action during their AFC Champions League Group C match on Monday. Courtesy Twitter
A thrilling display of attacking football saw Al Duhail of Qatar and UAE’s Al Ain play out a 2-2 draw at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium on Matchday three of the 2019 AFC Champions League Group C on Monday.
Despite controlling two-thirds of possession throughout, the Qatari side were profligate in front of goal. Al Ain goalkeeper Khaled Eisa was in top form, helping his side limit the damage at the back while their front line took two of the three chances that came their way.
Al Duhail got off to a flying start with Edmilson forcing Eisa into a reflex save within just three minutes of the start. The Brazilian received a cross-field pass and cut inside onto his left before firing low, but Eisa dived to parry the ball away.
Right-back Mohammed Musa followed suit minutes later with a drilled effort from 30 yards out, but Eisa was again live to the threat.
The UAE international was left with little to do in the ninth minute as Al Duhail captain Karim Boudiaf struck the opener. Edmilson was again the dangerman down the right wing, finding space and crossing for Boudiaf who hit on the half-volley from the edge of the box to put the hosts in front.
Al Duhail’s dominance continued and Rui Faria’s men were able to double their lead in the 32nd minute through Youssef El Arabi.
Musa exchanged a quick one-two with Boudiaf to free himself down the right flank before sending a low cross for El Arabi who swept home his fourth goal in three matches again Al Ain.
The home fans’ joy was cut short though as Al Ain responded instantly through Jamal Maroof. Eisa’s long ball was nodded on by Tongo Doumbia into the path of Maroof who coolly slotted home to half the deficit just three minutes after Al Duhail’s second goal.
Making his first appearance this campaign after returning from injury, the 2019 AFC Asian Cup MVP and top scorer Almoez Ali thought he had made it 3-1 just before the break when he controlled Edmilson’s cross and applied the finish from six yards out, but Eisa produced a superb save to deny the striker and keep the margin at one goal.
After the restart, Al Ain were a revitalised side, pressing higher up and creating opportunities. They were rewarded with a penalty kick in the 53rd minute after Maroof was brought down inside the box by Musa.
Caio stepped up to take the penalty but goalkeeper Amine Lecomte picked the right side and made the save before Amer Abdulrahman skied the rebound. The Al Duhail goalkeeper turned from hero to zero for the home crowd within two minutes after he spilled an attempt to handle Maroof’s cross and Marcus Berg punished him, stabbing in the equaliser in the 58th minute.
The home crowd thought their side had won the tie at the death when El Arabi rose high to head Ali Afif’s cross from a free-kick in the last minute of added time, but Eisa produced yet another top drawer save to keep the scores level at 2-2 at the final whistle.
The two sides meet again at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain in two weeks’ time on Matchday four.
Meanwhile, Christian Osaguona scored once and created two goals as Zobahan FC stormed to a 3-1 victory against Al Wasl at the Zabeel Stadium in a Group A match.
Coming off the back of their heaviest-ever AFC Champions League defeat, Al Wasl were looking to recover from their 5-0 humbling at the hands of Al Zawraa. Meanwhile, Zobahan looked to extend their unbeaten record this campaign to three games.
Caio Canedo, captaining the side in the absence of Fabio de Lima, broke the deadlock at the quarter-hour mark. The Brazilian received Ali Saleh’s cross from the left wing, before firing on the turn into the bottom corner to fire Al Wasl in front.
Al Wasl fans’ celebrations were short-lived as Zobahan retaliated immediately from the kick-off. Hamid Maleki outpaced his marker and delivered a pinpoint cross from the left for Osaguona, whose diving header beat goalkeeper Humaid Abdulla to bring the visitors level.
Zobahan turned the table on their hosts just 10 minutes before the break.