Players of Al Wahda and Al Rayyan in action during their AFC Champions League Group B match on Tuesday. Courtesy Twitter
An added-time goal from Leonardo sealed a 2-1 comeback win for UAE’s Al Wahda against Qatar’s Al Rayyan on Matchday three of the AFC Champions League Group B on Tuesday.
The two sides went into the fixture level on three points, with goal difference favouring Al Wahda.
Al Rayyan looked to pump crosses into the box for Gelmin Rivas throughout the first half with the Venezuelan striker seeing his header saved by goalkeeper Mohammed Al Shamsi at the 15-minute mark.
Rivas was again at the receiving end of a Mohammed Juma cross six minutes later, but he failed direct his header goalward.
Korean defender Rim Chang-woo responded with a headed effort for Al Wahda, but his ball sailed over the crossbar, before Rivas again missed a header from a Rodrigo Tabata cross.
A last-ditch tackle from Mohamed Alaeldin denied the UAE side a certain scoring opportunity before the half-time break. The Qatar defender snatched the ball from underneath the feet of Leonardo as the Brazilian was set to pull the plug following a quick counter attack.
The match burst into life in the second half as Rivas finally got his goal for Al Rayyan. The striker evaded his marker to get on the end of Lucca Borges’ cross from the right wing and slip home the opener eight minutes after the restart.
Al Wahda restored parity in the 67th minute through Sebastian Tagliabue. Playmaker Ismail Matar supplied a superb through pass for the Argentine who latched onto the ball and applied a composed finish past goalkeeper Fahad Younis.
There was to be late heartbreak for the local supporters as defender Musa Haroon was penalised for pulling down Leonardo inside the box in added time.
The Brazilian stepped up to take the spot-kick himself and drove home the Emirati side’s second win of the campaign.
Al Wahda will go into the reverse fixture at home in two weeks’ time boosted by the away win and six points in their tally, while another defeat in Abu Dhabi could complicate Al Rayyan’s situation in the race for qualification to the Round of 16.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Persepolis recorded their first win of the 2019 AFC Champions League, defeating Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli 2-0 in a Group D match.
The 2018 finalists took the lead for the first time this campaign after 18 minutes with what was the first real chance of the match.
Al Ahli’s defence failed to deal with a long throw-in from Mehdi Shiri and defender Shojae Khalilzadeh was in the right spot and went for the spectacular, volleying home from inside the box past a helpless Mohammed Al Owais.
Two minutes later, Ahmad Noorollahi tried his luck for Persepolis from distance, but his shot missed by inches.
Al Ahli had to wait until the 34th minute to get their first chance. Djaniny received Abdulfattah Asiri’s pass and rifled from 30 yards out, but his ball went high over the crossbar.
The Saudi side came within a whisker of equalising just before the break. Omar Al Somah volleyed following a long throw-in, and his effort was deflected by Noorollahi onto the upright and behind.
Alireza Beiranvand was forced into his first save in added time when Asiri hit Abdulrahman Ghareeb’s cross first-time and the Persepolis goalkeeper parried it away.
Persepolis came racing out of the blocks in the second half and within three minutes, they had doubled their lead through Ali Alipour.
Noorollahi failed to control a cross inside the box, but the ball fell to Alipour who converted into the net from close range to make it 2-0.
Captain Hussein Abdulghani tried his luck from well outside the box at the hour-mark, but Beiranvand was in the right place and made the save.
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Al Nasr came close to breaking the deadlock on the 15-minute mark, when Ryan Mendes’ pass found Sebastian Tagliabue, but Salem Sultan made a goal-line save to deny Tagliabue's effort.
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Hazam added that the AFC, after coordinating with the FIFA, decided to complete the joint qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in October and November. The UAE will play two home matches on Oct.8 and 13 which will be followed by two away games on Nov.12 and 17, 2020.
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