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Xavi’s Al Sadd close in on Asian Champions League knockouts

By AFP - Apr 27,2021 - Last updated at Apr 27,2021

DOHA — Al Sadd boosted their chances of making the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League on Monday after a hard fought 1-0 win over Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan put them top of Group D.

It was the third win in five matches for Xavi’s side who now have 10 points, two ahead of Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr who suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Jordan’s Wihdat.

At the Prince Faisal Bin Fahad Stadium in Riyadh, South Korean star Nam Tae-hee scored the only goal of the match to give former champions Al Sadd a vital three points in the race to top the group.

Wihdat, however, have no chance of making the round of 16 with just four points from five matches and will at best finish in third position if they win their next match.

Nam rose high to head in a cross from Qatar captain Hassan Al Haydos in the 64th minute as Al Sadd broke the deadlock following several missed chances at both ends.

Foolad’s loss means they have to win their next match and hope Al Nassr slip up against Al Sadd on Thursday to stand a chance of making the cut as the second placed team.

Al Wahda ended Persepolis’ four-match unbeaten run in the competition with a 1-0 win that raises their hopes of qualifying for the knockout phase as Group E winners.

Slovenian forward Tim Matavz’s fifth-minute strike proved decisive in the match in Margao, India, and took the Emirati club to 10 points from five matches, two behind Iranian giants Persepolis.

The result means that both teams will have to win their sixth and final group phase match to ensure qualification in a format where only the five group winners and three best second-placed teams make the round of 16.

Abu Dhabi-based Al Wahda were beaten 1-0 by Persepolis in the first week of the tournament but on Monday the Iranians were caught napping early in the match as Matavz raced into the penalty area and struck the winner with a powerful shot to the roof of the net.

Persepolis hardly had a close look at the Al Wahda goal in the first half and almost conceded their second on the night, but goalkeeper Hamed Lak made a fine save after Omar Khribin had attempted to score with an audacious shot from inside his own half.

The Iranians did have a few chances in the second half but Hossein Kanani headed wide and Ehasan Pahlavan saw his shot crash onto the crossbar.

Al Wahda next play FC Goa on Thursday, while Persepolis take on Qatar’s Al Rayyan to decide the group winners.

Salem Shah scored twice as Sharjah topped Group B with a match to spare after beating Iraq’s Air Force Club 3-2 at the Sharjah Stadium. 

Sharjah have 11 points while Iran’s Tractor FC are in second spot with seven after playing out a goalless draw against Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor.


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