Baghdad Bounedjah netted a dramatic late winner to give Al Sadd a 1-0 win over Iran’s Persepolis in their Group D clash on Matchday Two of the 2019 AFC Champions League yesterday.
Both sides were looking for their first win of the competition, and that attacking intent resulted in end-to-end action early on. Persepolis were unlucky not to score in the ninth minute after somehow failing to tap the ball in during a goalmouth scramble.
Al Sadd’s Akram Afif then saw his curling effort take a deflection and miss the goal by inches. Over at the other end, Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb produced a stunning reflex save to deny Ahmed Noorollahi.
In the 35th minute, Bounedjah had a give-and-go with Afif but failed to direct his header away from the hands of Persepolis custodian Alireza Beiranvand. Ali Alipour then stole the ball off Pedro Miguel and had a go at goal but saw his shot go wide.
At the stroke of half-time, Al Sadd had the ball in the net after Bounedjah nodded in from close range but the assistant referee ruled the effort out for offside.
The hosts upped the tempo as the second half kicked off, producing a flurry of chances to keep Beiranvand busy. The Iranian international came up with two excellent saves to keep out Bounedjah in the 50th and 58th minutes.
In the 78th minute, right after Al Sadd had a penalty appeal waved away, Persepolis broke away on the counter which ended in Al Sheeb keeping out Bashar Resan’s shot.
Just as the match seemed to be heading towards a stalemate, Bounedjah struck the winner for Al Sadd after nodding in Hassan’s headed pass across the goalmouth.
Al Sadd will now travel to Tashkent to face Pakhtakor on Matchday Three while Persepolis lock horns with Al Ahli in Dubai.
Meanwhile, a three-minute double-salvo late into the second half secured a 3-1 win for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal over Al Duhail in Group C.
Both sides had started their campaigns with a win, Al Hilal overcoming Al Ain 1-0 and Al Duhail putting three past Esteghlal in their respective group openers.
Sebastian Giovinco and Eduardo were a constant nuisance to the Qatari defence throughout. The pair combined as early as the fifth minute with the Italian crossing for Eduardo whose effort went inches above the crossbar.
The partnership delivered Al Hilal’s first goal in the 25th minute after Bassam al-Rawi misplaced his pass and was duly punished.
Mohamed Kanno intercepted the ball and fed Giovinco who controlled and sent Eduardo one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The Al Hilal captain kept his composure and applied the finish from inside the box to open the scoring.
Shoya Nakajima drew Al Duhail level 15 minutes before the end of the first half. The Japanese international pounced on a poor headed clearance by Mohamed Jahfali to control and drill home the equaliser with his left.
Al Hilal responded instantly, winning a corner kick straight after play was restarted. Giovinco delivered an in-swinging cross into the far post that was chested over the line by defender Ali Al Bulayhi.
Before Rui Faria’s men could regroup after going behind again, they were hit with the final blow in the 79th minute.
Bafetimbi Gomis won possession deep in Al Duhail’s half and supplied Salem Al Dawsari out wide. The winger then squared to substitute Nasser Al Dawsari whose intelligent dummy drew al-Rawi away from Gomis.
The French striker still had some work to do, rounding the goalkeeper and firing into the roof of the net to secure Al Hilal’s victory and get his Continental account up and running.
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