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Esteghlal, Al Shorta settle for draw in crucial clash

Esteghlal, Al Shorta settle for draw in crucial clash

AFC
Doha
Group A’s second ticket to the 2020 AFC Champions League Round of 16 will have to be decided on Matchday Six after Iraq’s Al Shorta and Iran’s Esteghlal FC played out a 1-1 draw at Khalifa International Stadium on Sunday.
Both sides went into the game needing a win to join group leaders Al Ahli into the next round, with Al Shorta holding a three-point lead, but having played a game more.
The Iraqis, having played twice over the past week had momentum on their side in the opening minutes of the game and had the bulk of possession.
Following a Mohammed Mezher corner, Mazin Fayyadh climbed unmarked inside the box, powering a header towards goal, but Seyed Hossein Hosseini made a quality reflex save to deny Al Shorta their opening goal inside the first 10 minutes.
Fayyadh was the dangerman again five minutes later, the winger advanced through the heart of Esteghlal’s midfield and tried his luck with a left-footed effort from outside the box. Marwan Hussein tried to pounce on Hosseini’s spilled save, but defender Roozbeh Cheshmi was first to the ball and made the clearance.
Al Shorta’s number 14 finally got his goal in the 25th minute. Fayyadh lost his marker once again and guided his header from Ali Fayez’s corner kick into the bottom far corner of Hosseini’s goal to open the scoring for Al Shorta.
Esteghlal piled on the pressure after the restart and nearly got an equaliser in the 58th minute after a quick exchange of passes at the edge of the Al Shorta box released Mehdi Ghaedi free inside the box, but the youngster fired his effort straight at goalkeeper Ahmed Basil who pushed it away.
Al Shorta’s defences finally yielded under the Iranian pressure as Farshid Esmeili received the ball down the right flank and drilled a powerful effort that was spilled by Basil into the path of substitute Amir Arsalan Motahari who applied the finish from point blank to bring the game level in the 68th minute.
The result means Esteghlal need to defeat Al Ahli by two clear goals on Matchday Six, while a 1-0 win for the Iranians would mean they have an identical goal-difference to Al Shorta and the two sides would have to be separated by their disciplinary record. Al Shorta’s hopes of qualification now rely on Esteghlal losing their next game.
Shabab Al Ahli and
Pakhtakor share points
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and Pakhtakor FC kept their qualification hopes alive after the two sides played out a 0-0 draw on Matchday Five of the 2020 AFC Champions League Group B on Sunday.
The previous match between the two sides took place on Matchday One, when Pakhtakor edged the UAE Pro League side thanks to Dragan Ceran’s effort 20 minutes from time instantly after Pedro Conde had cancelled out Jaloliddin Masharipov’s early chip.
The first threatening shot came in the most awkward of ways, when Ceran attempted a shot that flew high up and back down again, just scraping the crossbar and requiring keeper Majed Naser to intervene and concede a corner.
The Tashkent-based side threatened again close to the end of the first half, when a series of passes between Ceran and his teammates ended with the Serbian passing it to teammate Khojiakbar Alijonov who fired at Shabab Al Ahli’s goal but his shot was wide.
Shabab Al Ahli’s biggest chance of the first half came through 2015 AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil, with the Emirati forward taking on a direct free-kick from far out and hitting the crossbar.
Early in the second half, 2015 Asian Young Player of the Year Dostonbek Khamdamov received a lofted pass into the area, where he rose to head it in from an extremely tight angle, marginally missing and hitting the side netting instead.
Gerard Zaragoza’s men came agonisingly close shortly after the hour mark, when substitute Ahmed Al Attas received the ball at the edge of the area and attempted a cheeky dink above keeper Eldorbek Suyonov, who just about managed to tip it away with his fingers.
A few minutes later, substitute Azizjon Ganiev almost managed to score from a corner kick, though it took a botched clearance to hit the bar and back out into play.
The Dubai-based side’s keeper Naser was exceptional throughout, but his late save from Pakhtakor’s Ceran - a stinging shot to the 36-year-old’s right - was the highlight of his evening as he kept a third clean sheet in a row.
The two sides will have to wait till the final round of matches to confirm either side’s qualification, with Shabab Al Ahli up against group leaders Al Hilal SFC who have already qualified, and Pakhtakor facing the already eliminated Shahr Khodro FC.

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