Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis will head into the Knockout Stage of the 2018 AFC Champions League as winners of Group C, after overcoming Qatar’s Al Sadd with a 1-0 win on Matchday Six.
This result means that Persepolis finish the group stage as winners of Group C with 13 points, one ahead of Al Sadd who go through as runners-up. Persepolis will now face the second-placed team from Group A in the Round of 16, while Al Sadd play the winners of the same group.
Backed by a vociferous home crowd, Persepolis needed less than three minutes to go in front. Mohamed Ansari whipped in a tricky cross from the left wing and Al Sadd defender Morteza Pouraliganji inadvertently headed past his own keeper to give the Tehran giants an early lead.
Needing just a draw to finish top of the group, Al Sadd pushed forward in search of the equaliser but they were not particularly effective, with only Xavi and Baghdad Bounedjah coming close to scoring in the opening half.
The visitors looked more dangerous in the second half and Boualem Khoukhi thought he had levelled the scores when he finished off Bounedjah’s cross in the 62nd minute. However, the effort was ruled out for offside.
Persepolis looked comfortable defending their narrow lead and goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand had very little to do for most of the game, until a nervy final 10 minutes, when Al Sadd almost broke the home crowd’s hearts.
First, Bounedjah rattled the crossbar from close range with a stinging strike in the 87th minute, then just seconds later, Akram Afif registered what was surprisingly Al Sadd’s first shot on target but Beiranvand was on hand to palm the ball away.
AL Rayyan bow out after loss to Al Ain
A brace from Marcus Berg earned Al Ain their place in the Round of 16 with a 4-1 win over Qatar’s Al Rayyan on Matchday Six of the 2018 AFC Champions League Group D at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
The result, coupled with Esteghlal’s win over Al Hilal, means Al Ain finish second with 10 points, two points behind the Iranian side. Al Rayyan, meanwhile, were eliminated with six points in third place. Esteghlal will play the Group B runners-up in the Round of 16 while Al Ain will face Group B winners Al Duhail of Qatar.
Al Ain got off to a flying start when Caio embarked on a jinking run, dribbling past several Qatari defenders before attempting a left-footed effort that was parried away by goalkeeper Oumar Barry onto the path of Egyptian winger Hussein El Shahat who tapped in on the rebound to put the visitors in front inside 11 minutes.
The hosts looked to regroup and bag an equaliser, but could not find a way through and went into the break a goal down. Omar Abdulrahman doubled Al Ain’s lead 10 minutes after the restart, curling in a free-kick into the top corner.
Japanese full-back Tsukasa Shiotani advanced down the left flank and crossed for Berg to sweep home Al Ain’s third in the 58th minute, before adding his second of the night in identical fashion, this time applying the finish from Caio’s cross in the 78th minute.
Qatari international Sebastian Soria’s continuous efforts were finally rewarded with a late goal, pulling one back for Al Rayyan five minutes from time.
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