Al Wasl and Al Ain go down fighting as Al Nassr win - GulfToday

Al Wasl and Al Ain go down fighting as Al Nassr win


Al Ain’s Jamal Ibrahim (left) vies for the ball with Al Duhail’s Ahmed Yasser during their AFC Champions League Group C match. Agence France-Presse

Islamic Republic of Iran’s Zobahan kept their place at the top of the 2019 AFC Champions League Group A with a comfortable 2-0 victory over UAE’s Al Wasl at Foolad Shahr on Tuesday.

Zobahan had brushed aside Al Wasl 3-1 in Dubai two weeks ago and were sitting top of the group with seven points going into Matchday Four.

The Iranian side wasted no time in getting into the thick of the action, opening the scoring 90 seconds into the game.

Ghasem Hadadifar dispossessed young Al Wasl defender Faris Khalil deep in his area and supplied the ball to Mohammad Reza Hosseini down the right. Hosseini’s cross was flicked on by Amir Motahari for Alireza Cheraghali who was free at the far post and applied the finish to give the hosts an early lead.

Motahari turned from creator to scorer as he bagged Zobahan’s second goal of the night in the 15th minute.

Hamid Maleki delivered a curling cross from the left flank and Motahari headed it from a narrow angle, beating the goalkeeper to make it 2-0.

A heroic save from Humaid Abdulla prevented further damage. The Al Wasl goalkeeper flew to tip over Christian Osaguona’s powerful header from Hosseini’s cross, keeping his side’s disadvantage limited to two goals at the break.

Al Wasl’s Brazilian duo Caio Canedo and Ronaldo Mendes threatened with efforts from the edge of the box early in the second half, but both were unable to hit he target.

Osaguona came as close as possible to making it 3-0 in the 70th minute when he met another Hosseini cross with a flying header, but watched his ball ricochet off the crossbar.

Zobahan never looked in danger of losing their winning position at any point during the second half as Al Wasl were limited to efforts few and far between for the remainder of the game until the final whistle announced a 2-0 triumph for the Isfahan-based side.

The victory means Zobahan need just one point from their remaining two games to qualify to the Round of 16 for the third time in four years.

Al Wasl’s position is further complicated with the defeat, but they remain in contention should they win the rest of their matches and other results go their way.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Al Duhail stayed on course for a place in the Round of 16 of the 2019 AFC Champions League after registering a 2-0 win over Al Ain FC of the UAE in a Group C tie.

Elsewhere, a last-gasp strike from substitute Nawaf Al Farshan earned Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr a 2-1 victory over Iraq’s Al Zawraa at Karbala Sports City.

Al Zawraa returned to Karbala having won their first-ever AFC Champions League game on Iraqi soil 5-0 over Al Wasl on Matchday Two, while Al Nassr were buoyed with their 4-1 victory in the reverse fixture.

Fahd Bin Jumayah fired the first warning shot after less than 180 seconds. The Al Nassr midfielder skipped past two defenders and launched a long-range effort, forcing Jalal Hassan into his first save of the night.

Hassan was almost left wrongfooted in the 10th minute when Abdulaziz Al Jibreen’s shot from distance was deflected off Safa Hadi and looked destined for the back of the net, but the Al Zawraa goalkeeper showed impressive flexibility to change direction and tip it over the crossbar.

Alaa Abbas opened the scoring for the hosts at the half-hour mark. The striker chested down a long pass inside the Al Nassr box before exchanging passes with Mohanad Abdulraheem who laid the ball off for Abbas to side foot into the top corner of Waleed Abdulla’s net.

Al Nassr equalised in the 58th minute through Yahya Al Shehri who pounced on the loose ball after Al Zawraa goalkeeper spilled his attempt to catch the ball ahead of Jumayah, leaving Al Shehri with a simple finish to make it 1-1.

Abbas thought he had restored Al Zawraa’s lead halfway through the second half when he beat Omar Hawsawi to Ahmed Jalal’s cross and powered a header, but the Al Nassr goalkeeper was in the right spot and made the save.

The match turned into end-to-end action as both teams tried to snatch the winning goal in the dying minutes, and it was ultimately Al Nassr who succeeded deep into added time.

Yahya Al Shehri led a quick counter-attack and supplied a perfectly-weighted pass to Al Farshan who curled in the winner from the edge of the penalty area, having come on in the 74th minute.

A second win on a row means Al Nassr climb up to second place with six points, while Al Zawraa’s second defeat on the trot leaves them in third place with four points.

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