Persepolis pip Al Wahda; Pakhtakor, Tractor share spoils in ACL opener - GulfToday

Persepolis pip Al Wahda; Pakhtakor, Tractor share spoils in ACL opener

Pakhtakor and Tractor

Players of Pakhtakor and Tractor in action during their AFC Champions League match in Sharjah on Wednesday.

Veteran defender Seyed Jalal Hosseini scored five minutes before halftime to earn last season’s AFC Champions League finalists Persepolis a 1-0 win over Al Wahda of the UAE in their opening Group E clash in Goa on Wednesday.

Persepolis, who lost last year’s final to south Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, kicked off their 2021 campaign with a hard-fought win at the Pandit Jawaharial Nehru Stadium that gives Yahya Golmohammadi’s side the ideal start to their quest for an elusive continental club title.

Hosseini’s goal was a rare strike in open play for the 39-year-old central defender and it capped a first half display in which the team from the Iran dictated much of proceedings.

Persepolis had hit the woodwork as early as the eighth minute when Ahmad Noorollahi’s low cross popped up to head height off the foot of an Al Wahda defender and Shahriyar Moghanloo’s header ricocheted off the crossbar.

At the other end of the field, Al Wahda threatened in more conventional manner as Tim Matavz steered his first-time shot wide from 12 yards out before Omar Khrbin dragged his effort off target from outside the area.

With nine minutes remaining in the half Hossein Kanani headed over the bar for Persepolis before Hosseini gave his side the lead, finishing off a neat move with an adept strike.

Mehdi Torabi exchanged passes inside the penalty area with Ehsan Pahlavan before feeding the captain on the edge of the area and the three-time AFC Asian Cup veteran coolly stroked his effort into the corner of Rashed Ali’s goal.

Torabi squandered a golden chance to add to Persepolis’ lead 20 minutes after the restart when he pushed his effort wide after being played in by Moghanloo, but while Al Wahda sought to find a way through in the dying minutes, the Iranians held on to pick up their first three points of the 2021 edition.

Pakhtakor, Tractor play draw: A fine display of attacking football saw Pakhtakor and Tractor FC play out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Sharjah Stadium in the opening match of the Group B.

After a shy start to the game from both sides, it was Pakhtakor who took the initiative at the quarter-hour mark as Dragan Ceran advanced down the middle and supplied a fine through pass for Erin Derdiok who fired low from inside the box, but Tractor goalkeeper Mohammadreza Akhbari produced a quick save with his feet at the near post.

The Uzbek side thought they had broken the deadlock with 10 minutes to go when Azizbek Turgunboev whipped a ball into the box from a set-piece and Ceran’s towering header looked destined for the back of the net before Akhbari showed superb athleticism to make a diving save, tipping it behind for a corner.

Tractor came racing out of the blocks after the restart and within seven minutes, they were awarded a penalty after defender Anzur Ismailov handled the ball inside the box. Veteran Ashkan Dejagah stepped up and sent goalkeeper Sanjar Kuvvatov the wrong way, slotting home the equaliser.

Coach Rasoul Khatibi’s men wasted no time to double their tally. Akbar Imani capitalised on a defensive mistake and sent Mohammad Abbaszadeh through on goal and the latter blasted his shot into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 with 56 minutes gone.

Pakhtakor came within a whisker of finding the back of the net after Farrukh Sayfiev beat the goalkeeper with a composed left-footed finish, but as the Uzbeks prepared to celebrate, defender Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh popped up with a goal-line clearance to deny them the goal.

Coach Pieter Huistra’s men got their first goal of the night after Ceran collected Hojimat Erkinov’s pass and rifled a left-footed effort past Akhbari to narrow the deficit in the 69th minute.

Substitute Ibrokhimkhalil Yuldoshev had a chance to equalise after the Tractor goalkeeper spilled his attempt to catch a cross, but the left-back’s half-volleyed attempt from inside the box sailed wide.

Pakhtakor equalised with 15 minutes left on the clock after Sharof Mukhitdinov received Sayfiev’s pass from the right, twisted and turned before unleashing a thunderous left-footed strike that nestled into the Tractor net.

The Uzbeks were not done yet. Substitute Erkinov pounced on a poor defensive clearance and embarked on a solo run beating three defenders before placing the ball past the opposition goalkeeper to make it 3-2.

Just as Pakhtakor thought they had completed their mission, Abbaszadeh broke through on goal, leaving defender Egor Krimets with no option but to bring him down inside the box. Abbaszadeh stepped up to take the resulting penalty and made no mistakes, powering in to make it 3-3 with five minutes to go.

Pakhtakor face Iraq’s Air Force Club on Saturday while Tractor play the home side Sharjah in their next game.

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